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Israel: Violent protests
after court ruling on Haredi
military conscription

Richard Krauss

26. Juni 2024

Israeli Defense Ministry
prepares implementation
of new military conscription

The decision by Israel's Supreme Court to require ultra-Orthodox men to serve in the military was unanimous, with nine votes to zero. On June 25, 2024, the court declared that the Israeli government no longer has a legal basis to avoid the draft of ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students.

The judges argued that the inequality of the draft in society is untenable. The court also ordered that state support for yeshivas whose students are subject to military service be stopped.

The decision is the result of a years-long legal battle and followed an interim arrangement that expired at the end of March. The Israeli government had previously requested several extensions to create new legal regulations, but failed to put forward concrete proposals.

Ultra-Orthodox parties, including Shas and United Torah Judaism, reacted with outrage, calling the decision undemocratic and dictatorial. They argue that the court does not respect the religious traditions and rights of their community. Protests broke out in Jerusalem and other cities, with Haredi activists demonstrating against the decision.

In a symbolic protest, members of the Brothers in Arms movement marched to the home of Minister Yitzchak Goldknopf and demanded an equal distribution of conscription. They stressed that the burden of military service should not rest solely on the shoulders of the secular and traditional Jewish population.

The Defense Minister and IDF officials said they would implement the court's new guidelines, but it remains unclear how strict enforcement will be immediately. Some experts suspect that implementation may be delayed until a new legal basis is established.

Background on Haredim:

The Haredim, also known as ultra-Orthodox Jews, are a conservative religious group within Judaism that strictly adheres to traditional religious laws and customs. This community places great importance on the study of Torah and other religious texts. Since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, there have been special regulations exempting Haredim from military service.

These regulations arose from a compromise between the then government and leading religious authorities to secure the support of the religious parties for the new state. David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first Prime Minister, agreed to exempt a limited number of yeshiva students from military service so that they could devote themselves exclusively to their studies. This exemption was originally intended as a temporary measure and was only intended to apply to a small number of students.

The reasons for this exemption lie in the religious obligations of the Haredim, who consider the study of Torah to be a central religious duty that takes precedence over all other obligations, including military service. The ultra-Orthodox way of life is also incompatible with military service in many ways, as it includes strict rules of gender segregation, specific dietary requirements, and observance of Shabbat.

In addition, ultra-Orthodox parties such as Shas and United Torah Judaism have gained significant political influence over the years and have continually worked to maintain exemption from military service in order to protect their community's religious traditions.

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