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A law that lowers the age of eligibility for an exemption for haredi-religious yeshiva students from Israeli military service while gradually increasing the number of recruits from yeshivas, passed its first reading Monday night in Knesset.

Blue & White party chairman and Defense Minister Benny Gantz called it “a first step on the way to the overall service outline that I intend to promote, which will meet the security and social needs of the State of Israel in decades ahead. We will continue to work to maintain Israel’s security and resilience,” he wrote.


The age of exemption is temporarily lowered to 21 under the bill, but in three years’ time, it rises to 23.

Under the measure, yeshiva students who receive exemptions will be eligible at an earlier age to seek civilian employment, a move that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said would increase the number of haredi-religious Jews in the workforce.

United Torah Judaism chairman Moshe Gafni didn’t see it that way, however. According to The Jerusalem Post, Gafni shouted at Bennett after the vote. In a speech to the plenum before the measure passed, Gafni said he was “more ashamed” of this bill than any other in the history of the state.

There is great fear in the haredi-religious population about the likelihood young men from the population will be influenced — and in some cases forced — to reduce or perhaps even abandon their Torah observance during military service.

Retired IDF General and Likud MK Yoav Galant told lawmakers in the plenum in remarks prior to the vote that it would do more harm than good to draft people who don’t want to serve.


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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.