Don’t defend ultra-Orthodox draft dodgers, says Haredi minister

“A person who doesn’t study Torah and [receives an exemption due to the fact he is Haredi] should not be defended; he should serve in the military like every other citizen,” says Health and Interior Minister Moshe Arbel.

By World Israel News Staff

Prominent Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) politician Moshe Arbel of the Shas party, who serves as Health and Interior Minister, told Hebrew-language media on Tuesday evening that he is not in favor of de facto draft exemptions for young men from the community.

Arbel stressed that Haredi men who do not actually study in yeshivas, yet use their religious status as grounds for skipping army service, should be conscripted into the army.

“A person who takes advantage and exploits his [draft] deferment and [does not study in yeshiva] and merely because of the black kippa [yarmulke] on his head tries to avoid military service — we all together need to act to draft him into military service that is adjusted to his needs,” Arbel told Channel 12 News.

“Particularly as a Haredi man who served in the army and as someone who served in the reserves until entering the Knesset, and whose brothers served in the army, one of them an officer in the IDF, I want to say clearly – being Haredi is not a reason for exemption from military service,” he declared.

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Arbel emphasized that committed yeshiva students should be granted blanket exemptions from the IDF.  “I expect that in a Jewish state [learning Torah] will not be a criminal offense. We should respect those who study,” he added.

The lawmaker said that he “hasn’t yet” seen the contentious draft bill, but reiterated that exemptions should be limited to dedicated yeshiva students. “A person who doesn’t study Torah and [receives an exemption due to the fact he is Haredi] should not be defended; he should serve in the military like every other citizen.”

The minister’s comments come on the heels of growing tensions within the coalition regarding a bill that would formalize sweeping exemptions from the draft for Haredi men.

The Haredi Degel HaTorah faction has hinted that it is willing to topple the current government should the legislation not come to fruition in the near future.