The Tal Law, which grants military exemptions to yeshiva students, has been the subject of intense protest among Israelis for years. Yeshiva students have typically skipped the army, stayed in yeshiva, and received governmental funds to support their families while they learn, raising the ire of those who serve in the army and work hard to earn a living in the Israeli economy.
Following the repeal of the Tal Law, however, few protestors seemed satisfied. The consensus held that the government would propose a similar law in a different form, as few yeshiva students felt threatened they would be thrown out of their schools, and few soldiers thought the government would perform such activities. For many, the economic burden of the yeshiva students is already a foregone conclusion.
But in recent weeks, several news reports have suggested that Israelis leaders are making genuine efforts to propose a law that would have all Israelis either serve in the army or perform another sort of national service.
The popularly perceived right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party has urged Israelis to vote for an initiative that would implement such a law. Party representatives have called military service an “existential necessity,” and proposed a Tal Law that would have all eighteen-year-olds enlist in the IDF or perform national service. Faith and levels of religious observance will not be the dictators of military policy, the party’s leaders have demanded.
“All groups, organizations and people involved in this issue to contact all MKs from Likud, Labor, Kadima, Independence, National Union, Habayit Hayehudi and Meretz, and demand they support our proposal,” Foreign Minster and founder of Yisrael Beiteinu MK Avigdor Lieberman wrote on Facebook. “No gimmicks, no excuses. Whoever wants everyone to serve in the army should just come and vote.”
The Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee chairman David Rotem of Yisrael Beteinu wrote the bill Lieberman alluded to in his Facebook post.
In the bill, a reference to Maimonides and his statements regarding the importance of work are included. According to the twelfth century sage, one who fails to earn his own living is desecrating the name of G-d. Money for learning Torah is prohibited, Maimonides says.
Today, there are roughly sixty thousand yeshiva students exempted from army service according to the Tal Law. The new bill, if passed, would end this.
1,000 yeshiva students of exceptional character and skill may receive exemptions to sharpen their learning capacities, the bill qualifies. This is equal to the number of university students, athletes, and artists, who may be exempted for the same reason.
Those serving in the national or civilian service will receive the benefits and rights currently granted to IDF soldiers, the bill adds.
Without serving, yeshiva students will receive no government grants.
“In order to prevent those who dodge service from relying on funding from the government, [no government funds will be awarded without serving], so they will have to earn a living,” the bill explains, according to the Jerusalem Post.
In a visit an IDF reservists’ protest tent last Sunday, Minister Gilad Erdan affirmed his party’s commitment to ensuring that all perform some national service in Israel.
“The Prime Minister and the Likud aim to propose a law that would lead to equal distribution, so that whoever does not serve in the IDF would do national or civilian service,” Erdan said, according to Arutz Sheva.