Tag Archives: Ultra-Orthodox

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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Moving In

Albeit a few weeks overdue we were finally able to move into our new Jerusalem home this week. Since Asya’s university course started over two weeks ago we’ve had to make do the best we could, living out of suitcases, moving from place to place. In the kibbutz this meant cramming into Asya’s small family home, while in Jerusalem we were able to stay with a family friend in the quintessential quiet Jerusalem commuter town, Mevaseret Tzion. It hasn’t been ideal, but then again I have become pretty used to these ad-hoc living arrangements over the years – but with summer still holding out and Jerusalem still so new and exciting, there never really could be anything worth complaining about.

We’ve been in our new place a week now, and while it still feels as if we’re having to make do with the bare basics it’s just been nice to have, at long last, our own place. Nevertheless, bit-by-bit, pieces of donated family furniture make their way up to Jerusalem and are going a long way to make the flat feel more like a new home.

An interesting aspect to our flat is its location directly opposite the local synagogue. Needless to say Jerusalem is a religious city which upholds the Sabbath more so than most places here in Israel – the day of the week where the country comes to a total standstill. So there we were moving in last Saturday, parked right out in front of the synagogue at the height of Shabbat, labouring


The Edmond Safra Synagogue viewed from our balcony.

heavy boxes and furniture up the two flights of stairs; I can’t imagine any of the religious locals would have been too impressed by our lack of pious devotion to this “day of rest”. Thankfully our neighbourhood isn’t overtly religious; otherwise we may well have been hounded out of town. No seriously, make the mistake of accidentally driving through an ultra-orthodox neighbourhood on Shabbat and you WILL be stoned by the locals. Needless to say, the mystifying world of Jerusalem’s large ultra-orthodox communities will feature heavily in future posts.

Along with the synagogue and its devout conjugation, the echoing evening call to prayer from distant mosques only added to the mystical sights and sounds that envelop this holiest of cities.

My initial impressions of living in Jerusalem were, however, not of a city steeped in religious fervour, but rather of a city shrouded in the heaviest and darkest of rain clouds. Gosh, I could almost have been back in London. After weeks of blue skies and 30 something degrees it was a shock to the system to see the heavens unleash themselves upon the State of Israel – a country where rain is greeted with almost the same sense of marvel as we would greet snow. Back in the kibbutz, the pleasant Friday afternoon pitter-patter of rain on the porch roof soon gave way to hours of thunderous rain and hail clouds. And back in Jerusalem it was time to reacquaint myself with the sweater, the umbrella and thick blankets. But that was last week; normal service has since returned and we’re back to the bright sunshine and 20+ degrees.



Asya's Dad (Lev) helping us move in and installing the all important Internet connection.

Now that we’re finally settling in, and not living out of suitcases and backpacks anymore, I hope to have more time to write a bit more on this blog, more than just the weekly updates. This week the big topic worth writing about will be our interview at the Ministry of the Interior this Thursday – will they, won’t they give me the work permit?? Crossing fingers…



Settling In...



Posted by on November 7, 2009 in Life in Israel


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