Ultra-orthodox face conscription as new Israeli law advances

“You have delivered up our holy German Fatherland to one of the greatest demagogues of all time. I solemnly prophesy that this accursed man will cast our Reich into the abyss and bring inconceivable misery upon our nation. Future generations will curse you in your grave for your action.”—Erich Ludendorff to Paul von Hindenburg after he appointed Hitler to Chancellor (Hitler: 1889–1936 Hubris by Ian Kershaw)

Jewish legalism is not my cup of tea; I favor coffee. Yet, from time to time, it is useful to remember the unjust fastidiousness of legalism.

In the morning of May 29, 2013, Israel’s Ministers Legislation Committee* approved the new Conscription Law, which enforces the draft of Ultra-Orthodox Jews, the bulk of whom are Haredim. Yair Lapid, leader of the party promoting the new law and second only to Netanyahu in political power, celebrated immediately with derogatory remarks towards Haredim. Yet, despite the law having passed the most critical step towards its approval, the Knesset won’t vote on it until August. Don’t roast a hyrax** yet, Mr. Lapid.

This year, in its 2013 Time 100, Time Magazine replaced Netanyahu with Lapid in the list of most influential people. Supporting this assessment, Meir Porush, from United Torah Judaism, said after Netanyahu’s new government was formed: “This is a puppet government that won’t last.” He explained that the government would be led by Lapid since Netanyahu’s days are over. Shortly afterwards, political lightning hit the Knesset, and Lapid celebrated his victory. Haredim would be conscripted.

DJ Netanyahu plays Lapid’s music

The current Israeli government is the oddest ever. Following the most unusual negotiation process the Knesset has ever witnessed, a ruling prime minister, who heads the largest party after the elections, found himself forced to obey an alliance of the meek.

In the current Israeli reality, that meant the settlers and the oligarchy of the wealthy. In the new Israeli map of power, Lapid represents the rich oligarchy, and Bennett represents the Zionist Settlers. Ultra-Orthodox Jews became their victims.

One must warn Germany of the most unbelievable condition demanded by Lapid on Netanyahu’s coalition: he wants to increase financial support to Holocaust survivors. Lapid’s torch (“Lapid” is Hebrew for “torch”) is setting afire not only proverbial gas chambers.

Israel’s numerous clausus

The new law can’t be defined but as racist. Israel is imposing an inverse numerus clausus on Haredim. The Latin phrase for “closed number” was used many times in history to limit the number of Jewish students in universities. The new law introduces a malevolent twist in this discriminatory device.

According to the new law, everybody will be forced to reach the conscription office at age 17; failure to do that would be a criminal offence. Ultra-Orthodox Jews (Haredim and Hasidim) will get a delay in their service until they are 21. Out of the 8,000 Ultra-Orthodox Jews about to be recruited every year, 1,800 of them who have proven to be “persistent in their studies,” i.e., they haven’t dropped from the yeshiva (orthodox Jewish rabbinical) college, will be awarded a permanent release from service. The IDF will be given preference upon the others; if rejected by the IDF, they would go other state services.

Until now, the law looks reasonable. However, it included an inverse racial quota to the heads of yeshiva colleges. If their colleges would fail to supply a given quota of conscripts, they would be financially sanctioned by the state, which would cut their budgets as per the percentage of failure. Heads of yeshiva colleges would have personal responsibility to give yearly reports to the state on their “harvest.” Could you imagine Germany passing such a law?

Lapid wasn’t happy with this victory. In a typically Israeli fashion, he needed to humiliate the opponent. Accordingly, the new law shortens the service to secular men, who will serve 32 months instead of 36. Secular women get punished; they will serve 28 months instead of 24. Playing guitar like a rock star and speaking like a cheap demagogue, Lapid slowly lowered his torch and set on fire a path of fuel leading to Israel’s heart.

A few days after the elections, I read an astonishing interview given by a minister of the former government who stayed anonymous (Israeli Minister: “There will be a civilian revolution”). His ominous words regarding what will happen if the new government decides to recruit Haredim are becoming reality: “There will be protest rallies of thousands and tens of thousands on the streets, thousands of yeshiva students will fill up the prisons, the military police will run amok in Bnei-Brak [trapping those refusing recruitment in a town populated by Haredim], there will be a civilian revolution and andralomusia [from Greek, androloimosso, used here in the sense of chaos]. The worst thing is that those [Haredim] who go to the army now, will stop immediately.”

One of the first reactions to the new law came from Haim Valder, a Haredi lliving in Bnei-Brak, who said to newspaper Yediot Ahronot: “I know that this can cause giggling, but we giggle at Lapid’s thought that if Haim from Beni-Brak and Asher from Jerusalem [he mocks the condescending words of Lapid after his victory] will hold weapons in their hands, things will become better here.” In recent months, he had compared Lapid to a Nazi several times.

The issue was summarized a long time ago in a different continent and by other people: “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government” (from the United States Declaration of Independence). Mr. Lapid, is the IDF ready to deal with a civilian revolution?

* Fierce sandstorms, snowstorms and rainstorms have attacked the Knesset building in Jerusalem; until now, the unimpressive structure has survived them all. On April 13, 2013, a new type of storm was announced; this one may prove to be the last one the building will face. Following the recent elections, new Members of the Knesset (MK) were sworn in on February 5, they formed Netanyahu’s current government on March 18, and are now busy realigning the Knesset. Today, the identities of the MKs who will form the Ministers’ Legislation Committee were announced. An attack on Liberty was declared. Vital institutions are often given misleadingly boring names. The Ministers’ Legislation Committee (va’adat hasarim lehakika) is responsible for approving bills prepared by the government ministries before they are brought to the Knesset’s General Assembly. Once the latter approves them, they become law. Private bills proposed by MKs also are submitted to the committee’s review. Thus, this is the state’s legislative crossroads. Control it, and you control the state’s clockwork (see Knesset Legislation Committee Moves Naziwards).

** “Hyrax-eater” is a Hebrew idiom for “pagan;” hyrax is a non-kosher animal. “Ochel-Shfanim” in Hebrew, “ch” like in “loch.”

Roy Tov is the author of “The Cross of Bethlehem.” His website is Words from a Christian Israeli Refugee.

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