Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

16 Tammuz 5766 - July 12, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Politica: Exempting Women from Army Service

By E. Rauchberger

According to the existing law a girl who declares she cannot serve in the IDF for religious reasons receives an exemption from military duty immediately. Paragraph 24 of Security Service Law allows an exemption to be revoked if the official in charge of reviewing the case determines that the exemption was obtained through deceitful means. But Subparagraph (5) excludes exemptions given for religious reasons from this.

The government recently tabled a proposal to cancel this sub- paragraph, a seemingly innocuous move that is actually a veiled attempt to alter the longstanding status quo on military service for religious girls, an issue gedolei Yisroel zt"l fought against with mesirus nefesh decades ago.

This exemption was one of Agudas Yisroel's greatest legislative achievements. The exemption is available to girls from traditional families as well, even if they are not observant, but want to preserve their family's tradition, avoiding the great spiritual pitfalls that threaten every girl inducted into the army.

If the law passes, military officials or court judges would easily be able to claim that a girl has no religious grounds on which to object to army service, essentially handing down a decree of spiritual destruction by forcing her into the IDF.

Obvious Ploy

Nor is this an isolated incident. Justice Minister Chaim Ramon recently announced that during the Winter Session he plans to propose a law that would "solve" the problem of pesulei chittunmamzeirim, non-Jews and others halachically forbidden to marry into Am Yisroel. He claims the proposal would not be as far-reaching as the legislation Shinui proposed during the previous term, making it more amenable to the religious and chareidi sectors.

The current government's election platform, it should be recalled, included a pledge to solve the problem of pesulei chittun, which can only mean some form of civil marriage. The only question is how broad the arrangements would be.

If the law passes it would be akin to a tear in a pair of pants. At first there is just a small hole, but as time goes by it keeps getting bigger and bigger.

At the beginning of the current term a group of MKs headed by Yuri Stern (Yisrael Beiteinu) tabled a bill seeking to make civil marriage an option available to all, regardless of one's halachic status, and recently the bill was brought before a ministerial committee. At first the Justice Ministry supported it, based on the government's platform pledge, but in the end the bill did not pass in the committee after Meshulam Nahari of Shas issued a reminder that the coalition agreement required his party's consent for any law drafted on this subject.

Ramon then asked Stern and the other members of his group not to bring the bill before the plenum until the Winter Session, thereby forcing the coalition to vote against Stern's law and allowing future cooperation to advance the government's proposal.

Stern and his partners did not abide by his request, bringing the bill for a plenum vote last week. Based on a decision by the ministerial committee the coalition mobilized to reject the bill and succeeded in having it defeated by a large majority.

In a letter to Ramon, MK Rabbi Meir Porush made it clear UTJ would do everything in its power to prevent him from gaining Knesset approval for the law, saying it was obviously a plan to introduce civil marriage into Israel in stages.

Chaim Ramon thinks the chareidi MKs are new to politics. He believes by making a show of objecting to Stern's proposal and making every effort to prevent the approval of a more far- reaching law, chareidim will form a favorable impression, quickly agreeing to legislate a somewhat more moderate law to ensure the government does not change its mind and decide to support the Stern law.

Jewish identity in the State of Israel must be absolute. There is no room for any form of civil marriage, even for a limited segment of the population. Even the argument a minority of citizens finds a way to sidestep the law by flying to Cyprus or another country does not justify making changes, just as other laws are not done away with or altered because they can be circumvented. The State of Israel must at least preserve the fundamental values of Judaism and the laws on marital status must remain consistent with the basic Jewish way of life.

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