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Tag Archives: IDF

The Ultra-Orthodox and National Service

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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Falling Rockets over Israel & Gaza

For the third consecutive day the sky over southern Israel and Gaza is full of Grad missiles and Qassam rockets, mortars shells and other assorted forms of rocketry.

The inevitable recommencing of hostilities between the Israeli Defence Forces and Gaza militants came after the multipronged terrorist attack on Israel this Thursday left eight Israelis dead and dozens injured (Seven killed in series of terrorist attacks in southern Israel)

In Jerusalem we are normally far away from the ‘action’ but this weekend we’ve been visiting Asya’s family in kibbutz Mash’abbe Sade in the heart of the Negev desert, a mere 50km from the Gaza border. Normally there wouldn’t be too much to worry about as a) 50 km is still on the border line of the militants’ range, b) the kibbutz sits happily in the middle of nowhere and far from any of the targeted urban areas such as Sderot, Be’er Sheva, Ashkelon and Ashdod and c) the recent deployment of the missile defence shield, the ‘Iron Dome’ has meant a number of rockets are now being successfully shot out of the sky.

Still last night at 4 am the air-raid siren here kicked into life, warning of an incoming rocket. Given the proximity to Gaza you then have less than a minute before the rockets hits. Normally they fall into open fields but every once in a while they hit a building resulting in smashed houses, severe injuries and the occasional death. So far in the last 3 days a number of houses have been hit, scores injured and a single death. Thankfully for us it was only a false alarm… especially since I slept through the whole thing and first heard about it over the breakfast table.

Fortunately here in the middle of the Negev desert there is really nothing to worry about with regards to incoming rockets. But every once in a while you hear a distant thud and you wonder how many innocent civilians, Israelis and Palestinians, are being caught up in the belligerents’ mindless ‘rocketeering’. It’s a horrible way to live and in any other country it would be far bigger deal. However here, sandwiched between hostile entities, Israel has managed to normalise this eternal conflict in a way that continues to baffle me…

Here below is a copy of fridge magnet stuck on many a fridge door up and down the land. It indicates the response times you have for incoming rockets from Gaza or Hezbollah-controlled southern Lebanon.  Only 60 seconds here in the kibbutz, but a whole 3 minutes in Jerusalem. That said I’m still quite clueless as to what to do and where to go if and when the alarm goes off again. Perhaps better to just sleep through it all and hope for the best…

 

 

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