Israel Vows To Draft Haredim, But Major Hurdles Remain

Fine Print and Timing Complicates Situation

Devil in the Details: Discontent over the Haredi exemption from military service contributed to Yair Lapid’s strong showing in the Israeli election. Still, any major changes could be years away.
Getty Images
Devil in the Details: Discontent over the Haredi exemption from military service contributed to Yair Lapid’s strong showing in the Israeli election. Still, any major changes could be years away.

By Nathan Jeffay

Published March 24, 2013, issue of March 29, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

During Israel’s election campaign last January, the new Yesh Atid party’s single most popular stand was its vow to end the exemption that Haredim, or ultra-Orthodox Jews, receive from mandatory military service, which is obligatory for other Israeli Jews. Now, to the surprise of many cynics, that promise is about to be fulfilled.

In politics, however, even kept promises are often kept imperfectly. And that has some of the move’s original supporters fretting.

According to the March 15 coalition agreement signed by the four parties that will govern Israel, within just 45 days of taking office, Israel’s new government will present legislation to draft ultra-Orthodox men into the army.

But Idan Miller, chair of Common Ground, a lobby group for universal service, remains concerned by the fact that the coalition agreement envisions a four-year gap before Haredi conscription officially begins. “Four years from now there is a good likelihood there will be another government that will cancel the whole thing,” he said. Similarly, Micky Gitzin, executive director of the pressure group Be Free Israel, said that a “big question” hangs over whether the law that is passed will really be enacted.

Miller hastened to acknowledge that the agreement on conscription is “definitely a big step.” It was the issue, in fact, that is widely credited with having propelled Yesh Atid to its surprise second-place finish in the election, winning 19 of the Knesset’s 120 seats. “If 19 seats in Knesset [cannot] start the process, we’re doomed,” a hopeful but wary Miller said.

It is a kind of tug of war between bright expectation and battle-weary cynicism that characterizes many of the move’s supporters as the new government launches itself.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.