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Israeli Supreme Court ends Ultra-Orthodox military exemption

22/02/2012

The top news in Israel today is the abolishment of the “Tal Law” by the Supreme Court yesterday. The law, enacted ten years ago, allowed ultra-Orthodox Jews to choose whether to be exempted from the army by studying Torah in religious academies known as Yeshivot, or be integrated into the country’s workforce following a symbolic military service. Israeli law does not allow those who did not serve in the military to work in most public jobs.

The Supreme Court, which is normally extremely careful in overturning Knesset laws, defined the Tal Law as anti-constitutional and discriminatory. Now legislators will have to come up with a new law which will ensure a more egalitarian system.

Many Israelis, myself included, see this as a historic moment for Israel. The collective exemption of the ultra-Orthodox male population from national service, military or civilian, dates back to the early days of the state under Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. But with their numbers growing exponentially, the current situation is untenable for Israeli society.

The Israeli political system often operates by turning a blind eye to the thorniest issues in society, enacting temporary, haphazard measures. The Supreme Court has now said “no more.” Will it ever do the same on even touchier political issues?