Bill: Expand Hesder Active Service to 2 Years

Labor MK behind bill seeks to right 'historic distortion' of soldiers' rights, he claims, by scaling back state support for Torah study.

Tova Dvorin ,

Hesder students (file)
Hesder students (file)
Flash 90

Over sixteen months after Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (HaTnua)'s bill to extend the IDF service of hesder yeshiva students was rejected, a similar bill is being put up to vote Sunday - a bill which, if ratified into law, will see the hesder track army service extended from 17 months to two full years of service. 

The proposal, spearheaded by Labor MK Omer Bar-Lev, would see the five-year hesder track be divided into a 12-month yeshiva (Torah academy) study period, followed by 24 months of active duty, followed by the choice to either continue in active service or to return to yeshiva for eight months. 

The current system sees hesder students learn 1.5 years, approximately, in yeshiva before serving 17 months in active duty and then returning to yeshiva for 13 months. 

Unlike in the current system, the new bill would also see the last period of yeshiva time not counted as part of a soldier's active duty. Currently, soldiers in the final part of their hesder service still receive the benefits of soldiers on active duty and the total time is tallied under "active duty" for official purposes. 

In the new bill, Bar-Lev claims the extended service time under the current laws are an "injustice." 

"This bill seeks to amend an injustice in the values and social equality of the citizens of the State of Israel," Bar-Lev's bill states. "While a soldier in the regular IDF track is released after 32 months and becomes responsible for his future, a hesder student continues to study with State support after 17 months of military service." 

The bill may reignite tensions between religious sectors and parties, which were settled following last year's debate over Livni's bill, and spark fury over the signatories - six MKs from Yesh Atid, half of the MKs from HaTnua, Kadima's two MKs, and ten members of Labor. 

Moreover, the bill is designed specifically to take advantage of the current coalition crisis with Jewish Home - Israel's religious-Zionist party - according to Walla!The hesder track is an innovation of religious-Zionist yeshivas, and hence any such moves would effect them alone and not hareidi institutions - which currently do not provide for military service at all.

In remarks to the daily over the bill, Bar-Lev called Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett's push for Equal Burden of Service for IDF soldiers - but opposition to changes to the long-standing hesder track guidelines - a "cynical use of politics" and a "historic distortion." 



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