Photo Credit: Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90
Haredi men who decided to join the IDF during the Gaza war stand in front of the Tel HaShomer military absorption center, October 23, 2023.

Attorney General Gali Baharav Miara dropped a live grenade on PM Netanyahu’s coalition government regarding the conscription law, Kan 11 News reported Monday night. At a meeting held between the Justice and Defense Ministries, the AG announced that if by the end of next month, the government does not extend the exemption from conscription for yeshiva students, and declares that it intends to enact a new conscription law, all conscription obligation would immediately apply to all yeshiva students, even those whose Torah study is their profession (Toratam umnutam).

The government is considering appealing the AG’s decision to the High Court of Justice, on the grounds that such a move is destructive when the country is in the midst of an all-out war against Hamas in Gaza. But the AG insisted that should such an appeal be tended, she would not be able to represent the government before the court, seeing as she is the accused party.


This means that Netanyahu et al would have to renew the exemption for Haredi youths in the next few weeks, even as thousands of IDF enlisted men and reservists are spilling their blood for their country – very bad optics. But even worse, Netanyahu’s cabinet will have to work on a new conscription law that would resolve military service issues for Haredim, a feat that hasn’t been successfully carried out in decades.


Attorney Sophie Ron Moriah wrote in Maariv last week that the pressure to forge the most unpopular Hared-related law since Israeli hospital managers were authorized to search visitors for chometz would bring about the collapse of the Likud-national religious-Hardalim (Haredi Zionists)-Haredi coalition.

“The Iron Swords War broke the silent consensus – in Israeli society in general and in the knitted yarmulke sector in particular – and created rifts in the coalition’s unqualified support for the Haredi position,” Ron Moriah noted.

There are ample reasons for those cracks. As a result of the war, the IDF has announced a comprehensive plan for reserve and regular service, the main points of which were: doubling the number of reserve service days, raising the reserve-service exemption age from 40 to 45, and upping the reward for combat service. As to enlisted soldiers, their service was extended to 36 months for both male and female soldiers, who would receive compensation through special grants.


The Haredi Institute for Public Affairs last December published a survey, conducted by the polling company Askariya, that showed Haredi attitudes about serving in the IDF have changed because of the war. Their survey showed that 73% of Haredi society claimed their sense of solidarity with Israeli society had emerged following the war. 75% declared feeling part of the “Israeli story,” and 32% supported increased Haredi involvement in Israeli society.

More important: around 70% of the Haredi population believe that those not studying Torah should contribute to either military or civilian service, alongside a 20% increase in support for integrating Haredim into the IDF and security system.

Also: the survey discovered that for 85% of the Haredi population, it’s important that the secular society view Haredi society favorably. 32% supported increased involvement of the Haredim in Israeli society, contrasting with 14% advocating for increased segregation. Only 44% said they prefer that Haredi society maintain its conduct toward Israeli society as it had done until now.


Finally, the source of the term “Toratam umnutam” is in Tractate Shabbat 11a. The Gemora says that those who are engaged in Torah study need not stop for prayer, but they are required to stop to recite the Shema. This was taught in a Beraita (external Mishna): Torah scholars who were engaged in the study of Torah stop their Torah study for Shema, and they do not stop for prayer. Rabbi Yocḥanan commented: The Beraita only taught that the likes of Rabbi Shimon ben Yocḥai and his peers, She’Toratan Umnutan (whose Torah is their vocation) and they are never obligated to interrupt their Torah study. However, for the likes of us, who also engage in other activities, we stop both for Shema and for prayer.”

Mind you, Rabbi Tochanan who held such reverence for Rashbi, was himself the greatest rabbi of his era (third century CE). In other words, we can all agree that yeshiva students who have reached the level of the Tzadik whom we commemorate on Mt. Meron every Lag B’Omer need not enlist. Everyone else…


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