Five months after the High Court of Justice rejected the newest version of the military draft law, ordering its cancellation within a year from last September, Haredi MKs are responding with a draft bill seeking to anchor the right to study Torah instead of enlisting in the Israel Defense Forces as a basic law, which is the closest thing in Israel to a constitutional amendment, Israel’s Channel 2 News reported Thursday.
“Since the birth of the Jewish people, Torah study has been the cornerstone of the nation’s existence,” the draft says. “Even in times of crisis and destruction, Torah study was a refuge and shelter for the nation. Following the destruction of European Jewry in the Holocaust along with its important Torah institutions, the State of Israel undertook to resurrect Torah study from the ashes.”
“This basic law proposes to anchor constitutionally the great value the state assigns to studying Torah, and its desire to encourage Torah study across all sectors,” the draft bill continues. “At the same time, this basic law seeks to anchor the right of those who wish to dedicate themselves to a meaningful period of Torah study to the removal of other obligations imposed on them by state law, such as security service and voluntary national service, in light of the consideration of Torah scholars as providing service to the Jewish people.”
The Haredi MKs make it clear that the draft bill is their response to the High Court’s decision to revoke the draft law and intends to regulate the issue of enlisting Haredim in the IDF, noting: “This clarification is also intended to address the issue that the Supreme Court has asked the Knesset to regulate. Therefore, this basic law is also intended to clarify the position of the Knesset, anchoring constitutionally the policy of every Israeli government to date, which determines that, in light of the centrality of the value of Torah study and its importance as a service to the Jewish people – anyone who wishes to dedicate himself to Torah study for a long period of time will be absolved of the duty to enlist in the military.”
Last September, the High Court of Justice decided to accept a petition against the draft law and order its annulment within a year. The law in question amended the existing law, enacted by the Haredi parties in 2015, an amendment which the High Court found to be “disproportionate and unconstitutional.”
“A layer-by-layer examination of the provisions of this arrangement reveals that there is a deep failure in this law’s ability to realize the goal of significantly reducing the inequality in the distribution of the burden of military service,” the justices ruled.
The majority opinion, written by then court president, Justice Miriam Naor, determined that the 2015 military recruitment law harms equality in a manner that violates the constitutional right to human dignity.
“The regulation suffers in large part from the flaws inherent in the previous draft regulation, which led to the determination that it is unconstitutional,” Naor wrote.