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!
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • 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.