Israel’s high court rejects draft exemption for yeshiva students

The High Court of Justice rejected a Knesset amendment to the 2014 Equality of Service Law, insisting that the mandatory draft also be applied to the ultra-orthodox community.

Israel’s High Court of Justice struck down a 2015 law that delayed ultra-Orthodox mandatory military service, saying that the law “did damage to the principle of equality.”

In an 8-1 ruling handed down Tuesday, the High Court of Justice rejected a Knesset amendment to the 2014 Equality of Service Law, which called for expanding the military draft to the haredi (ultra-orthodox) community by limiting draft exemptions and setting quotas for their enlistment in the IDF. The legislation set 2017 as a cut-off date for meeting the quotas, and for applying the mandatory draft to all yeshiva students under age 24.

Haredi parties Shas and United Torah Judaism vehemently opposed the original legislation, but were unable to block it after the Yesh Atid and Jewish Home parties had conditioned joining the coalition following the 2013 election on excluding the haredi parties from government.

Two years later, however, Netanyahu actively recruited the Orthodox parties when forming the current government, and the latter demanded a delay in implementing the law until 2023 as a condition for joining.

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The ruling sparked a furious round of condemnations from haredi MKs, who accused the justices of waging an “all-out war on Judaism” and of harboring a “thirst for dictatorial rule.”

“Throughout Jewish history there have been people, both inside and outside of our nation, who have tried to prevent yeshiva students from studying. Some tried force, some tried other methods,” said MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ), who added that the justices “have no idea what the meaning of Torah study is.”

“But they have never succeeded, and they won’t succeed today. Yeshiva students will continue to study, with or without the High Court of Justice,” Gafni added.

Gafni’s faction colleague, MK Yisrael Eichler (UTJ) added that the ruling would not defeat the haredim, but rather the Supreme Court and the State of Israel.

“As soon as the Knesset reconvenes, we will join forces with other groups who have suffered under the dictatorial arm of the [court],” Eichler said. “We will fight anyone who tries to harm Torah students in the Holy Land.”

By: Andrew Friedman/TPS