Hareidi enlistment
Hareidi enlistmentIsrael news photo: Flash 90

The “Tal Law” that exempts full time yeshiva students, most of them hareidi religious youth (for the most part, religious Zionist youth join hesder or mechina programs and enlist, but some also do not and learn full time) from enlisting the army expired as of Wednesday, seemingly leaving in its place the law requiring all Jewish men to join the IDF. However, mass enlistment by hareidi religious youth would cause chaos in the armed forces, which is not prepared for a mass influx.

In actual fact, it is a well kept secret it that the situation can revert to what it was before the Tal Law, the law whose goal was to get those who learn Torah  full time into the army at a younger age and also give them the possibility of joining the work force.  Before the law was passed, full time yeshiva students received exemptions which had to be renewed yearly with proof that they were still studying Torah all day, and could not work legally until they joined the army at some point in their lives. If they decided to work, they were drafted. It was possible to enlist at age 26 for "Shlav Bet", second stage enlistment, do a shorter training, be added to the reserves in non-elite and non-front line units, and receive permission to work from then on.

If the yeshiva student community were to test the IDF establishment with a mass enlistment, the army would find itself overwhelmed. Although it has created the Nahal Hareidi unit for combat soldiers, it is not equipped to absorb the sudden enlistment of tens of thousands of men, and it also cannot meet all their religious needs at once.

It has created several programs to meet the needs and demands of women soldiers, criminals who are undergoing rehabilitation, new immigrants and even handicapped people.

Officially, hareidi youth could be arrested for not obtaining exemptions, but in practice, no action is expected until officials can draw up plans how to deal with the new situation.

There is a possibility, if not probability, that extreme secular elements will petition the High Court that the IDF enforce the requirement to draft yeshiva students, but the government would likely request a postponement for several months.

If the political and military establishment were to arrest all young men who do not enlist, the prison system would have the headache of trying to accommodate thousands of men preferring to sit in jail and study Torah there instead of in yeshivas.

Attempts to replace the Tal Law were virtually doomed from the beginning, when Kadima joined the government in a new national unity coalition based on the principle of a “universal draft.”

Within nine weeks, the deal fell apart following political chess matches between Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz, who five years ago voted to extend the Tal Law, and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, head of the Likud party.

A new attempt to pass legislation replacing the Tal Law will not occur before the Knesset returns to work after the summer vacation and High Holidays that begin with Rosh HaShanah in mid-September.

The fly in the ointment for Kadima is the Arab  sector, which nationalists point out have no less a duty to serve the country than hareidi religious youth, who have been exempted because their study of Torah day and night has been recognized as serving both the country and the entire Jewish People.

Officially, Defense Minister Ehud Barak gave clear instructions that all applicants for military service come to the recruiting office and begin normal recruitment procedures. However, Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said that the army will not act before there is a clear decision from the political establishment. and that is not likely to happen in the very near future.