The Knesset was humming with the sound of bells on Wednesday as the call to vote for an equal service bill filled the building.
“You have a responsibility to contribute to your country, to the state that you get benefits from,” FM Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu spokesperson said. “Those who serve will receive.”
The proposed bill was shot down by a 74-20 vote.
The opposition in large part came from the Haredim. Avraham Chasida, 32, is a Chassid from Jerusalem and an army veteran. He believes that the army is a method for protecting the Jewish people. In turn, he also said that continuing to learn Torah is the only way the Jewish people will really be protected.
Chasida set up a tent in Wohl Rose Park outside of the Knesset in protest of the new bill. He explained that there has already been a natural increase in army service in the Ultra Orthodox community without force or punishment. In 2007, 305 Haredi men were serving, and in 2011 that number has increased to 2,372. The sentiment was a confusion at changing something that is already working.
“Don’t just be right, be smart,” he said. “After 64 years, you can’t take people and turn it around and switch it in one shot.”
Knesset members are also aware that the transition must be smooth. “We can’t have a revolution, we have to have evolution,” MK Tzipi Hotovely said, adding that the Army needs to be prepared for the Haredim just as much as the Haredim need to be ready for service.
However, time is of the essence, and not only because of the August 1 deadline posed by the Supreme Court. Hotovely said that the window of opportunity exists now – because in the near future Knesset representation will change.
A spokesperson for Yisrael Beytenu echoed her statement. “We’ve had 64 years to evolve,” he said. “Demographically, it will be impossible to pass this bill 20 years from now.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu is now working on a bill that is quite similar to the Tal Law, and if all goes well, should be passed before the end of the month.Alex Abel