The latest incarnation of the Haredi Draft Law, aka “The Perry Law,” is an excellent piece of legislation.
The Haredi community suffers from serious problems, which are affecting the rest of the country as well.
Haredi towns and neighborhoods are among the poorest in Israel.
The cycle of poverty in which Haredim are stuck is due in part to the way governments have dealt with the draft issue in the past (no army service—no work permit), but, just as significantly, due of the way the political leaders (“askanim”) of the Haredi community have created a social structure that locks people into the cycle of poverty, thus also guaranteeing their reliance on those same leaders for education, social acceptance, and money.
Israel’s society also suffers from Haredi poverty, because when such a large segment of the population relies on welfare payments, the effect on the economy is devastating.
The new Haredi draft law has just passed its first reading, and will now undergo review in a special committee chaired by Jewish Home’s MK Ayelet Shaked, before it is sent back for a second and third round in the Knesset.
This law is not so much about getting Haredim into the army in the near future, as it is about immediately permitting Haredim into the legal workforce, thus breaking the cycle of poverty.
The new law divides Haredi society into three age groups:
If passed, the law will immediate allow Haredim ages 22 and up to enter the workforce if they wish, and never have to worry about being drafted again. They will receive a permanent exemption. They can also sit and learn forever, if they so choose.
Next, the law will allow Haredim ages 18-22 to defer their draft until they reach age 24, and then, at age 24, they may decide if they want to serve in the army, do national service, go to work, or stay in kollel and learn forever. In other words, to this age group the law guarantees temporary exemptions until they may receive a permanent exemption. But, once again, they would be able to legally join the workforce in 4 to 6 years.
The third age group are Haredim who will turn 18 in the year 2017.
Out of this group, 1,800 will receive exemptions to sit and learn Torah, for the first time effectively sanctioning Torah study in the Jewish State as the full equivalent of military service.
The fate of rest of those who turn 18 in 2017 will depend in some way on what today’s 18-22 age group does over the next 4 years.
The government intends to set a draft quota of 5,200 Haredim out of the approximately 8,000 who will reach 18 in 2017. Out of that quota, 3,000 will enlist in the IDF, 2,200 will do National Service—most likely in their own communities. The remaining 2,800 will receive permanent exemptions.
But, if the full 5,200 quota isn’t met, then the envisioned 2,800 exemptions will be automatically reduced to 1,800.
Give and take.
Incidentally, last year some 2,200 Haredim were drafted. Out of that group, 1,300 enlisted in the IDF and 900 did national service.
This year, the total number of enlisting Haredim is expected to reach 3,300. Not so far from the envisioned quota ( which could change following the committee review and the Knesset debate).
Indeed, Haredi youths are already at close to two-thirds of the draft quota of 4 years from now, and the sky hasn’t fallen.
This isn’t a one-way street as the IDF will gain as well. We think merely adding a large group of soldiers who are mature, disciplined, who don’t curse, and who keep the Mitzvot would go a long way to improving our army—but the much more important result of the law should be felt immediately, with Haredim who did not serve in the army legally taking on jobs to feed their families, with honor.
We happen to believe that, just as Haredi young men will surely make for a better, more civilized and more Jewish army, so will mass entry into the workforce have a similar positive influence on Israeli society.