Creating new perspectives since 2009

Israel’s top court abolishes ultra-Orthodox Jewish exemption from military service

June 25, 2024 at 11:38 pm

Ultra-Orthodox Jews attend the funeral of Israeli Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky who died on Friday, March 18 in Bnei Brak, Israel on March 20, 2022 [Mostafa Alkharouf – Anadolu Agency]

Israel’s High Court of Justice has ruled that ultra-Orthodox Jewish citizens must participate in military service, obligating the state to draft them and discard the long tradition of exempting them from the practice.

In a ruling by the court this week, it stated that Israel’s “executive branch has no authority to order not to enforce the Security Service Law for yeshiva [Jewish seminary] students in the absence of an appropriate legislative framework”.

Due to the absence of legislation directly exempting yeshiva students from military service, the justices said, “the state must act to enforce the law”. They also added that state funding for any such seminaries will be cut if they resist the move or harbour any students dodging the draft.

Since the creation of the State of Israel, the Zionist entity has allowed the ultra-orthodox Jewish community to bypass the country’s mandatory – for male citizens – three-year-long military service, with the common view that those who, instead, study at a yeshiva are also doing a civic duty by supporting and expanding the Jewish foundation of the Israeli state.

READ: Unprecedented surge in conscription refusals amid Gaza war: Israeli group

The High Court of Justice’s decision is a historic one, therefore, and comes amid growing calls in recent years for the exemption to be scrapped, particularly in the wake of the ongoing offensive on the Gaza Strip and the Israeli military’s increasing sense of urgency at its failure to defeat and eradicate the Palestinian Resistance group, Hamas.

As a result of the court’s ruling, the government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could also potentially suffer further instability as it is headed by a coalition which includes two ultra-Orthodox parties and other religious factions who fiercely disagree with the decision.

Yitzhak Goldknopf, the ultra-Orthodox head of the United Torah Judaism party and Housing Minister in Netanyahu’s cabinet, condemned the ruling on X as “an expected but very unfortunate and disappointing decision”. He added that the “State of Israel was founded in order to be the home of the Jewish people, for whom the Torah is its bedrock. The holy Torah will be victorious”.