Israel: Military Service Also Extends to Ultra-Orthodox

The exemption, unanimously overturned by Israel's Supreme Court, could affect some 66,000 young ultra-Orthodox Jews

Gli ultraortodossi in Israele protestano contro la decisione della Corte suprema

The war in Gaza is far from over, and the Israel Defense Forces need new soldiers. Israel’s Supreme Court has made a radical decision: the exemption from military conscription for Talmudic school students will be canceled.

On Tuesday, June 25, it was established that “ultra-Orthodox students will no longer be exempt from military service.” The decision could pose serious problems for the political coalition led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Israeli Supreme Court statement emphasizes that “in the midst of a difficult war, inequality is more pronounced than ever.” He also reported that the relevant decision “was made unanimously.”

Pressure has recently increased on the Israeli authorities from secular parties and NGOs to abolish the “special regime” for the ultra-Orthodox. Students in Talmudic schools were exempted from compulsory military service in the Jewish state in 1948. This decision was made by David Ben-Gurion, a Polish-born Israeli politician, journalist and trade unionist, founder of the State of Israel and its first prime minister. In 1948, this exemption applied to 400 students. Today, there are about 66,000 of them.

According to the Israeli press, “the issue of military service for the ultra-Orthodox has become particularly politically sensitive when the Israeli army, composed mainly of young soldiers and civilian reservists, has to fight on two fronts: in Gaza and on the border with Lebanon against Hezbollah.” The Jerusalem Post newspaper emphasizes that “the stakes are high for Netanyahu. The public is in favor of abolishing the benefits, but the current government includes two ultra-Orthodox religious parties. If they decide to leave the coalition, it will lead to early parliamentary elections.”