Israeli court rules ultra-Orthodox Jews must obey army draft

Israeli court rules ultra-Orthodox Jews must obey army draft
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish students will not be exempt from conscription in Israeli, a court has said, ending the avoidance of religious scholars from army duty.
2 min read
12 September, 2017
Orthodox-Jewish Israelis have held large protests in Jerusalem [AFP]

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish students will no longer be exempt from Israel's military draft, the country's supreme court, ending the traditional avoidance of young Israelis engaged in religious studies.

Nine judges ruled that the 2015 amendment to a law that gave religious students special privileges over secular young Israelis should stand, AFP have said. 

"All the justices ruled that the new draft arrangement violates equality," the decision read.

Eight-to-one of the jurists want the exemption to be struck from the law books.

It's a decision that will likely enrage Israel's small but influential ultra-Orthodox community.

"It's a miserable ruling," lawmaker Menachem Eliezer Moses, of the United Torah Judaism party, told state-owned Channel One TV.

"We are certainly not going to dismantle the government," he added. "There are still two years to elections. We shall change the law."

Most Jewish Israelis are obliged to enlist, usually at the age of 18, with men serving for two years and eight months and women for two years with periodic periods of reserve duty into their 40s.

"The majority justices ruled that the annulment of the arrangement would take effect only a year from the date of the ruling, in order to enable the arrangement to be implemented," an official summary of the judgement said.

A year grace period gave the military and others affected by the bill time to organise for an enlarged draft.

It also gave Binyamin Netanyahu's right-wing party chance to find a ruling acceptable both to the court and the ultra-Orthodox members of parliament who back the government's slender parliamentary majority.

So far, Ultra-Orthodox leaders have been enraged by the decision and look set to challenge it

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, of the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, took to Twitter to vent against the court's ruling.

"The Supreme Court is totally cut off from our (Jewish) heritage and tradition," he said.

"We will act with all our might to amend the law to allow the continuation of the existing arrangement."

Ultra-Orthodox Jews represent about 10 percent of the Israeli population and live by a strict interpretation of Jewish laws.

Ultra-Orthodox protests against the draft have been held against the draft.

Many believe that the military service will be a source of temptation for young people taken out of the cloistered world of prayer and religious study.

In March thousands took to the streets and dozens have been arrested on public disorder offences in the past few months.