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Tuesday night the High Court of Israel banned the “Tal Law,” a law which allows religious Jews in Israel to study in a Yeshivah (a religious school) until the age of 22, where they can choose whether they want to enlist or not, and if choosing not to then whether they want to do army service for four month or civil service for a year.
The law, which was implemented in 2002, has been seen by some as giving some religious segments a free-pass from army service, while it has been explained as an attempt to make more religious Jews do army service. It hasn’t worked as planned though, and now the High Court has banned it, based on inequality of the citizens in Israel, allowing something to choose not to do what others are obliged to do, only based on religious convictions.
What does this mean? Well, for the next coming months not so much, but when the period for the law is ending, then it depends on what will come instead. Netanyahu has stated that he plans to establish a new law, which will “lead to a more just share of the burden of military service”, though we still need to see what that will offer. But I have a feeling that if it doesn’t offer anything near what the Tal Law offered, then we’re in for a lot of mess, probably seeing a lot of demonstration and rioting from the Haredim sector.
For me the question is not so much whether a group in Israel, or any society, should be permitted to study the creed of their religion for an extended time, as well as having the opportunity of evading the obligation of the normal citizen of the same society. Or actually it is, but I see it more broadly, should anybody in any given society be allowed to evade the general obligations of their society, based on their religious conviction? I don’t believe so. I do understand the basis for the banning of the Tal law, and I also agree with it, though I do also understand the frustration of the group, though not agreeing with them in that. Basically, if you want to be part of a society and have the same rights as everybody else, then you should also accept the same obligations. That is not to say that there shouldn’t be shown certain respects, for example showing respects to these people’s religious convictions in the army (there is a huge discussion about just that here in Israel as well).
Anyway, for me the banning of the Tal law signifies a step in the right direction down here, making Israel a more equal and just society. Now we just have so many more steps to take.