The hareidi media has harshly condemned the Jewish Home party in recent weeks over developments in the Shaked Committee, which is drafting a law that will see many hareidi yeshiva students obligated to enlist in the IDF.
In fact, the Jewish Home party has made significant steps toward making the new law tolerable for the hareidi community, MK Orit Struk (Jewish Home) told Arutz Sheva.
The party’s accomplishments have been covered up from both directions, she said: hareidi MKs have not mentioned the Jewish Home’s help due to a political campaign against the party, while Yesh Atid leaders has ignored the compromises reached by the committee in an attempt to portray the law as an overwhelming victory for their own party on the issue of hareidi enlistment.
Among the significant changes Jewish Home succeeded in introducing to the bill was official recognition of the importance of Torah study, for the first time in the state’s history. The change affects both religious-Zionist and hareidi yeshivas, she said.
The change has great practical value as well as symbolic value, Struk noted. “When laws are interpreted, those doing the interpreting look at the purpose of the law. If the idea of Torah study as a goal were not included in the purpose, it would not be reflected in legislative decision-making,” she explained.
The party also managed to alter part of the law that could have seen elite yeshiva students chosen for enlistment, she said.
A proposed version of the law would have seen all yeshivas required to send a certain percent of young men to the army. Jewish Home MKs succeeded in introducing a change that will see hareidi yeshivas as a whole obligated in enlistment quotas, while individual yeshivas will not face sanctions for failing to meet quotas.
The hareidi community has expressed particular concern for the fate of elite students who are on the path to becoming Torah scholars and religious leaders. The change in the law means elite yeshivas will not be forced to send highly accomplished students to the army, she explained.
A third change instituted by Jewish Home MKs will see the government set goals for hareidi enlistment each year according to the circumstances, rather than setting a single enlistment goal every three years.
The purpose, she said, is “not to hit the hareidi community over the head with a hammer, but instead to bring about gradual integration regarding security and economy, while still encouraging Torah study.”
Hareidi leaders have been particularly upset by the inclusion of criminal sanctions in the new law. However, Struk said, it would be wrong to view the sanctions as anti-hareidi.
The criminal sanctions in question are no more than the sanctions faced by all Israeli men who are obligated to enlist, she explained. In the hareidi community, she said, thanks to the gradual introduction of enlistment goals “Torah students will not be taken by force to the enlistment office.”
When asked why the Jewish Home party has been portrayed as an “enemy of Torah” despite the efforts she described, Struk said there has been a campaign against the Jewish Home party in hareidi circles.
The Jewish Home party angered hareidi politicians when it agreed to join the ruling coalition after the last national elections. The coalition was the first in many years not to include hareidi parties; a reality that has widely been perceived as allowing the government to create the enlistment bill.