Israel Court Ruling Ends Protections For Religious Jews From Joining IDF

Zinger Key Points
  • Israel’s high court unanimously decides against protections for religious students from joining the army.
  • Israel’s mandatory military service includes most men and women from the age of 18.

The Israeli Supreme Court has ruled that ultra-orthodox men of service age must now be drafted to join the army, in what constitutes a strong political blow to Benjamin Netanyahu's ruling coalition.

Israel's nine-month-long war against Hamas and Hezbollah is shaking the country's institutions in unprecedented ways.

Now, a ruling by the country's highest court risks defying one of Israel's most debated realities, by which Jewish religious students are exempted from the otherwise mandatory military service, which drafts most male and female citizens at age 18 and has become a rite of passage in Israeli society.

The Israeli Supreme Court Decision: On Tuesday, the court ruled unanimously that Orthodox youth, also called Yeshiva students, must be included in drafts in an equal manner to other members of society, as there are no longer any legal resources in place to justify their exemption, the Times of Israel reported.

About 63,000 men of draft age are part of the Haredim, an ultra-Orthodox group within Israeli society that constitutes about 13% of the country's population.

The Haredim are characterized by their strict adhesion to traditional Jewish rites and ways of life. The study of religious texts is a central part of their daily lives, which conflicts with other activities like military service.

Haredi groups say their role in society is needed to maintain the traditional Jewish rite alive and provide divine protection to the rest of the population.

What It Means For Israeli Politics: Two Haredim political parties represent the second-largest political bloc after Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party, with which they form a coalition.

In previous decades, several temporary exemptions were passed allowing for Yeshiva students to skip military service. The court has now determined that "there is no legal basis for avoiding the recruitment of yeshiva students at this time."

The latest exemption expired in June of last year, months before Israel received its worst attack in decades on Oct. 7 by Hamas, subsequently launching a massive military campaign into Gaza that has strained the country's military manpower.

Both the U.S. Department of State and the European Union’s European Council have placed Hamas in their foreign terrorist organization lists.

Last week, Netanyahu criticized a decision by U.S. President Joe Biden to halt a shipment of large bombs to Israel, describing the move as inconceivable.

Read also: Benjamin Netanyahu Dissolves Israel’s War Cabinet Amid Internal Strife As War With Hamas Rages

 "The state must act to enforce the Law for Security Service on yeshiva students," the court said, adding that "there is no legal authority to continue transferring the [financial] support for these students."

The final phrase refers to a separate ruling stating that Yeshiva students are now barred from receiving financial support from the government if they are of draft age.

The ruling did not specify how many young Orthodox Jewish men must now be drafted or at what rate. It has called upon recruitment agencies to be active in recruiting religious men into the Israeli Defense Forces.

The ruling text says the recruitment can be gradual as long as it begins immediately.

According to the news outlet, it's unlikely the legislature will pass further exemptions, with several members of Netanyahu's party saying they would vote against them at this time of urgent need for military personnel.

The court ruling even counted with the support of two far-conservative judges who are religiously observant.

"Non-enforcement of the provisions of the Security Service Law creates severe discrimination between those who are required to serve" and those exempted, the court said in its ruling.

"In these days, in the midst of a severe war, the burden of inequality is more acute than ever — and requires the promotion of a sustainable solution to this issue," the court said.

ETFs following Israeli companies listed in the U.S. include Ishares Msci Israel ETF EIS and Ark Israel Innovative Technology Etf IZRL.

Now read: Hezbollah Leader Warns Israel And Cyprus To Fight ‘Without Rules And Without Limits’ If Conflict Escalates

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