The Israeli crisis is exacerbated by ultra-Orthodox recruitment

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Ultra-Orthodox Jews who study full-time are exempt from mandatory military service

Israel's Supreme Court has issued an order in the long-running dispute over military exemptions for ultra-Orthodox Jews, worsening the crisis in the government.

It ordered a freeze on funding for ultra-Orthodox or ultra-Orthodox educational institutions whose students are eligible for compulsory conscription.

The ultra-Orthodox parties in the government reacted angrily, while a secular party threatened to resign over the issue.

The majority of Israelis oppose ultra-Orthodox exemptions.

The ultra-Orthodox community makes up about 12% of the population but those who study Torah full-time are exempt from mandatory military service.

Compulsory conscription applies to almost all other Israelis, with the exception of Israeli Arabs, starting at age 18 for both men and women.

The government is discussing a draft law that is said to seek a compromise by allowing exemptions while imposing restrictions.

But the draft plan faces strong opposition from the Haredi parties. Two of these parties – Shas and United Torah Judaism – hold 18 seats in the 72-seat emergency government.

On the other hand, the centrist secular National Union Party, which holds eight seats, insists on abolishing the exemptions completely.

The party's leader, Benny Gantz, the former army chief of staff, threatened to withdraw from the government over the current plan.

“The people will not tolerate this, the Knesset will not be able to vote for it, and my colleagues and I cannot be part of this emergency government if this law is passed,” he said on Monday.

While some religious Jews of military age serve in the IDF, the vast majority do not, and devote their lives to studying the Torah in religious institutions, or yeshivas.

The Supreme Court ruled to freeze funds allocated to yeshivot whose students have qualified for conscription since July 1, 2023, when the previous deferral law expired but they have not yet enlisted. It is said to affect about 50,000 religious school students.

The ruling is scheduled to take effect on April 1, one day after the government's deadline to draft a new law expires.

The head of the United Torah Judaism party, Yitzhak Goldknopf, described the ruling as a “disgrace and disgrace.”

Critics object to this exemption, arguing that all Israeli Jews should serve without exception. This issue has worsened since the start of the war on Gaza on October 7, in which 254 soldiers were killed.

Barak Siri, a former advisor to Shas leader Aryeh Deri, told Israeli public radio that “from the moment the court issued its ruling, the Haredi parties were in a state of complete shock.”

“The decision to stop funding on Monday surprised them. Accusations are flying in all directions, in Likud [party which leads the government]in [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, in the full right-wing government, in their representatives… This is the worst situation the Haredim have ever known.”

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