Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Benny Gantz Salutes UTJ’s Meir Porush, December 13, 2022.

A senior Likud official on Thursday told Reshet Bet Radio that the coalition will advance the draft law at the beginning of the Knesset’s winter session. According to him, this is because if Likud fails to obey the Haredi demands, then National Union Party Chairman Benny Gantz would be ready to offer them the law they want, and even a more lenient version of it so they join his government.

The Likud senior explained that the coalition is very well aware that the kind of draft law that would appease Netanyahu’s Haredi partners would provoke a strong public protest that would surely encompass a wide group of Likud supporters who would find it difficult to accept such a law.


At the same time, the senior Likudnik explained, the legislation will aim to prevent a Haredi walkout from the coalition, as they are currently threatening to do, and the nightmare scenario where the Haredim would even join a Gantz-led coalition government. In the end, he said, Gantz is ready to pay any price to unseat Netanyahu.

Likud’s proposed outline of the draft exemption includes granting the exemption to Haredim whose “Torah is their vocation,” namely individuals who sit and study Torah; in addition, the outline dramatically lowers the exemption age from 26 to 22 or even 21, so that Haredim of these ages will no longer be forced to enlist at that age and will join the job market that much earlier.

Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Galant want to combine the above outline with an “Enlistment Prestige” law which guarantees a substantial increase in the financial reward offered to IDF recruits who are discharged honorably.

In other words, at age 21, give or take a year, Haredim and secular IDF veterans would enter the job market or academia together, with the secular veterans enjoying a hefty financial edge.

Let’s look at the Talmudic term “their Torah is their vocation.” It is debated in tractate Shabbat 11b:

An exterior mishna teaches: Torah scholars who are engaged in learning interrupt their learning for Shema, but they do not stop for prayer. Rabbi Yohanan adds a proviso: the exterior mishna only taught this regarding spiritual giants such as Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his associates, whose Torah is their vocation and they never interrupt their study. However, for the rest of us, who also engage in other activities, we interrupt our learning both for Shema and for prayer.

Mind you, Rabbi Yohanan was the most important Amora in Eretz Israel, and he didn’t consider even himself to be in the category of “their Torah is their vocation.” Someone should remind the folks in Bnei Brak.

Last week, the coalition removed in a hurry a bill calling for a basic law that declared Torah study as forever equal to service in the Army. But in the end, it might turn out that precisely such a law is what the coalition must embrace to escape its collapse.


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