Approximately 3,000 members of Israel’s chareidi community have already been enlisted into the Israel Defense Forces, and they will start their active duty by August of this year.
Major-General Orna Barbivai, director of the Israeli Army’s manpower division, told Israel Radio late last week that the fervently Orthodox young adults who were ordered to present themselves for enlistment had previously deferred their military service on the basis of religious reasons. Barbivai noted that 2013 would be the first year that thousands of chareidim would be required to perform mandatory military service.
In December, the government approved a proposal that allows 1,300 fervently Orthodox yeshiva students to enlist in the army’s civilian service program rather than sign up to serve in the military. However, this measure generated widespread opposition from advocates of IDF draft reform.
The new decision was put into effect in order to counteract the major decrease in numbers of recruits serving in the civilian service program after the “Tal Law” expired this past August. The number of active civilian service personnel is presently 1,450, down from 2,026 before the law expired.
While it established a legal structure for an estimated 54,000 full-time yeshiva students to defer their military service indefinitely, the Tal Law also set up the civilian service program for chareidi recruits for the purpose of providing a partial solution to the low rate of fervently Orthodox participation in the country’s national service programs.
Since the Knesset has not passed any new legislation to replace the Tal Law – which was struck down by the High Court of Justice in February as unconstitutional – the 1949 Military Service Law (amended in 1986) that mandates compulsory military service for all Israeli citizens once they become 18 years old is now operative.