The Tal Law regarding hareidi-religious IDF enlistment has failed, and Israel should focus instead on making military or other national service compulsory for the hareidis. So said a Knesset taskforce Sunday in a report released after two years of research. The report was given to Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee head Shaul Mofaz (Kadima).
The report suggests setting concrete goals for hareidi service. Taskforce members suggested reaching for a 66% enlistment rate among hareidi-religious men by 2015, with 50% of draftees serving in the military while the other 50% perform civilian service.
By 2016, compulsory service should be the norm, with only a small handful of talented Torah scholars remaining in yeshiva, they said.
Taskforce head MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima) proposed that the IDF offer more service options tailored to suit hareidi religious observance. The committee expressed particular interest in expanding the Shachar program, which aims to help hareidi soldiers integrate into the workforce following their service.
Eighty-five percent of men who finish the Shachar program go on to find work, compared to 53% of those who serve in other programs designed for hareidi soldiers.
Many hareidi men currently push off army service to study in yeshiva, but later serve in the “Shlav Bet” program, which allows for a much shorter service period consisting primarily of training. MK Plesner rejected the use of Shlav Bet on a large scale, saying the program “must not constitute a substitute for significant military service.”
The five non-hareidi members of the taskforce signed on to the report; however, the two hareidi-religious MKs did not sign. MK Nissim Zeev (Shas) said he was not given enough time to read the report.
MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) came out strongly against the taskforce's conclusions. Hareidi-religious men lead harder lives than anyone else in Israeli Jewish society, he said, giving up material comfort in favor of Torah study and facing constant media criticism. Torah study was what sustained the Jewish people during exile, and yeshiva students “carry the burden of the nation,” he said.
“We have no right to exist as a nation without those who learn Torah and we have no right to this land without them, but [Plesner] did not see fit to discuss that,” Gafni concluded.