Haredi man and soldier at the Kotel
Haredi man and soldier at the KotelYonatan Sindel/Flash 90

The Israeli government voted Sunday to approve a plan to lower the draft exemption age for haredi men to 21 – before increasing it to 23.

The plan, drawn up by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, temporarily reduces the age limit for drafting yeshiva students to 21.

Currently, yeshiva students must obtain an annual draft deferment, and risk immediate induction into the army if they leave their yeshiva in order to pursue a career.

Under the new arrangement, yeshiva students will be able to either to enroll in a jobs training program or enlist in a non-military national service program, serving as emergency first responders, search-and-rescue workers, or other civilian national service positions.

The temporary lowering of the draft exemption age is aimed at encouraging some yeshiva students to join the job market, giving them a three-year period during which they will be able to pursue a career without being drafted.

After two years, the draft exemption age for haredi men will be raised to 22, and three years from now, it will be raised to 23.

The plan also allows haredi soldiers to end their service early once they have reached the age of 21, if they join a job training program or civilian national service program.

The bill must pass the Knesset before going into effect, but will take effect immediately once the Knesset has voted to give final approval.

“For decades, the State of Israel has cut off its nose to spite its face,” said Prime Minister Bennett. “Meaning, because people were so angry that the haredim aren’t being drafted, they also put them into a position in which they were forced to stay out of the job market until a late age. Today, we are putting an end to that, and opening the gates of employment to young haredim.”

“This is a historic process for the future of Israel,” Bennett continued.