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The Ultra-Orthodox and National Service

26 Jun

Israel’s Jewish ultra-Orthodox community is up in arms as government plans to extend mandatory national military take shape.

Sign stating that the enlistment of the ultra-orthodox into the Israeli national service (civil or military) will NOT happen – Mea Shearim, Jerusalem.

It’s hard to think of an experience more surreal than wandering through the bustling streets and alleyways of Jerusalem’s ultra-orthodox neighbourhoods. It’s not only a step back in time, but entering a world so entirely detached from the rest of Israeli society.

On a recent trip through the neighbourhood I came across this large protest sign denouncing the government’s attempts to introduce new legislation forcing ultra-orthodox men into national service.

One of the ways this community remains so detached from the rest of Israel is the current and long-standing exemption young ultra-orthodox men and women receive from the mandatory national military service (two years for women, three years for men), a cornerstone of Israeli society. Whilst all other young Israeli men and women are enlisted to serve in the Israeli Defence Force, ultra-orthodox men are free to enter religious schools (known as yeshivas) where they pursue a life studying the bible, forever removed from the realities of modern-day Israel.

Needless to say the ultra-orthodox, often vocal against government attempts to interfere in their religious way of life, are likely to put up quite a fight. As one of the community’s leading rabbis bluntly put it, “We must give our lives against the drafting of yeshiva students [to the army]. In an issue that belongs to the heart of Israel, there are no compromises.” (Thousands of ultra-Orthodox protest in Jerusalem against Tal Law replacement, Haaretz, 25/06/2012).

Ultra-Orthodox protest against Haredi enlistment in the IDF, Jerusalem, June 25, 2012.

Ultra-Orthodox protest against Haredi enlistment in the IDF, Jerusalem, June 25, 2012. Photo by Shiran Granot (Haartez)

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Posted by on June 26, 2012 in Jerusalem, Jewish Life

 

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