Israel’s Supreme Court has annulled a law which exempted ultra-Orthodox Jews from being conscripted into the army, drawing furious responses from community leaders and some politicians.
The decision to repeal the law was made Tuesday. Eight of the nine-judge panel ruled that parts of the conscription law were “unreasonable and unconstitutional.”
The measure will take effect within a year.
Members of the ultra-Orthodox community – unlike secular Jews who are drafted into the military at the age of 18 – are largely exempt from being drafted into the country’s armed forces.
The exemption stems from 1949, when then defense minister David Ben-Gurion, who was also the country’s first prime minister, allowed 400 students to be excluded from military service on the grounds that “their studies are their craft.”
The ruling has angered ultra-Orthodox politicians who see the study of the Torah as fundamental to the continued survival of the Jewish people.
United Torah Judaism chairman and Health Minister, Ya’acov Litzman, said the decision was “the worst and most wretched decision in the history of terrible decisions in the Jewish world.” He added the judges were “harming the most cherished aspect of haredi Judaism, which is the holy yeshiva students whose Torah is their profession,”according to the Jerusalem Post.
In 2014, the secular Yesh Atid party proposed legislation to replace previously made arrangements on conscription which had expired. However in 2015, when both ultra-Orthodox parties rejoined the government, and Yesh Atid went into opposition, the ultra-Orthodox parties managed to dilute this law.
Supreme Court President Miriam Naor, the judge heading up the panel, wrote: “The hope of meeting the enlistment targets set by existing the law are growing less and likely every year. As a result, the law’s goal of reducing inequality in the burden of military service is not being met,” Haaretz reports.
Opposition politicians praised the judges for their decision.
“This is why we have come to politics. Conscription for everybody, work for everybody. Benjamin Netanyahu can no longer continue to wriggle out all the time. Military conscription is for everybody, not only for the suckers who don’t have a party in his coalition,” Yair lapid, chairman of the Yesh Atid party said.