Massive Protest by Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox against Conscription

Israel’s Haredim, an Eastern European branch of Judaism emphasizing strict religious adherence, were a tiny minority at Israel’s founding in 1948 and were given an exemption from conscription. Many Haredim rejected Zionism or modern Jewish nationalism and did not accept that a Jewish state could be established save by the Messiah.

Now the Haredim have grown to 8% of Israel’s roughly 5.5. million Jews (out of a population of about 7.2 million– 20% of the population is Arab Muslims and Christians). They have large families and are likely to grow as a proportion of Israelis. Likewise, the proportion of Israelis who are not Jewish will likely rise to some 30% by 2030. So the Israeli conscript army will face a shortage of young men if Haredim and most Palestinian-Israelis continue to be exempted from military service. The secular coalition now ruling Israel, headed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, has decided to deal with this looming security issue by conscripting the Haredim. They, however, are not at all happy about this draft law, and an estimated 300,000 flooded the streets of Jerusalem on Sunday to show their displeasure.

Euronews: “Ultra-Orthodox Jews stage mass protest to denounce conscription bill”

Posted in Israel,religion | 2 Responses | Print |

2 Responses

  1. It has been Israeli government policy that has created the ultra-Orthodox “problem”. At Israel’s founding in 1948, ultra-Orthodox “society ‘was very different…It was a normal working society,’ similar to the rest of the Jewish population. The fertility rate was about the same….To get married, a man had to leave yeshivah [religious school] and find work. Rather than being a diorama of traditional Jewish life in Eastern Europe before the Holocaust…Israel’s present-day version of ultra-Orthodoxy is a creation of the Jewish state.”

    Ultra-Orthodox males from an early age are instructed to obey their revered rabbis in every aspect of life. And, the ultra-Orthodox rabbis, unlike their pre-1948 forefathers, do “not need to interpret Jewish law pragmatically…for the sake of a working laity. [Thus, every] strict ruling become[s] the norm…Rather than seek to sanctify life in the modern world, ultra-Orthodoxy [has] tried to build a sacred preserve…”

    In 2000, the newspaper Ha’aretz published pictures showing ultra-Orthodox men at work in New York. “For the Israeli audience, photos of gainfully employed [ultra-Orthodox] men — a private detective, a truck driver,…a welder — were news on the level of man bites elephant.”
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  2. I always find myself supporting anyone who objects to conscription, even though in this case it is only for a select group. Hopefully the idea catches on with less orthodox Israelis.

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