Dei'ah Vedibur - Information &

A Window into the Chareidi World

7 Adar 5778 - February 22, 2018 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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What is the Truth about Drafting Women in Israel?

by Yosef Tikoczinsky

We present here the main points of the investigation publicized in the weekend Yated Ne'eman which again demonstrated the simple truth: There has been no change whatsoever in the army/draft status of chareidi girls, and whoever follows the procedural rules will avoid unnecessary technical problems. Public representatives and seminary principals emphasize the responsibility placed upon seminary students and their parents to follow the procedures in submitting exemption forms.

Gedolim time and again ruled that drafting or any participation of women in the army or in national service is prohibited with the stringency that girls should submit to being killed rather than participating (yeihoreg ve'al ya'avor). This ruling applies, and always applied, to all women and girls, religious and non-religious alike. This ruling always created a delicate situation in the position that chareidi politicians should take with regard to the drafting and national service of completely non-religious girls.

Our Torah leadership throughout the ages ruled, like prophets who prophesied in a uniform manner, that our representatives must do everything in their power to save all girls from the draft and ruled that one must act in this matter up to it causing a threat to the religious girls, that is, up to the stage where activity for the sake of these non-religious girls may hurt the general chareidi and shomer-mitzvos public.

Article in Yated Ne'eman several years ago discussing the changes in the law governing the draft of women

Regarding students of the chareidi seminaries, an understanding was arrived at many years ago whereby the requests for army exemption on religious grounds are presented in a concentrated manner and these have always been, and are, duly honored. The military authorities have respected them to this day and even cooperate in solving technical problems which crop up occasionally in this area. To this end, an advisory committee has been established which works together with Knesset representatives, successfully dealing with these problems up to their satisfactory conclusions. All this has been working as well as it has always been working over the years.

The most fraught situation involves truly arises when non-religious girls falsely declared themselves to be religious in order to escape their obligation to do army service.

There is an important asymmetry here. The general Israeli community views the exemption of girls as an exemption for religious girls. However the chareidi community would like all girls to be exempt from such service, even those who lie about their personal religiosity and are truly not religious.

The current furor involves secular girls who submitted false declarations on religious grounds, and it is only regarding these girls that the current problem has arisen. When these cases came to public attention many people were outraged that such girls can get away with their lies.

Chareidi politicians must deal with the complex reality where the army, supported by the High Court, raises difficulties for secular girls posing falsely as religious. The government has sought in the past to pass a law making it easy for them to abolish the exemption for these girls, but the chareidi politicians, based on their principled opposition to any draft of women, succeeded in stopping it.

According to the law passed in 5738 (1978), paragraph 40, which legally anchors the deferment of women on religious grounds, states that even if a girl was found to have lied, the deferment she received is not cancelled or revoked. According to this law, every girl who files for an exemption upon religious grounds should automatically receive an exemption without any interference. One reason for insisting on this was to forestall attempts to challenge declarations for borderline religious girls. However, as we noted, chareidi leaders were always happy when as many women as possible were exempted.

Ten years ago, several cases raised an outcry when it was revealed that some who filed for the religious exemption, lived a brazenly secular lifestyle, yet they received an release upon the grounds of their declaration that they are religious, and this release can be reversed only with great difficulty even though it was granted on fraudulent grounds.

The army began examining very closely all such submissions. But when it found fraud it had to file a special appeal in court in order to cancel each of the exemptions, and this is a very cumbersome and expensive procedure. When the press brought attention to this situation, many people were outraged.

These developments and the subsequent public pressure brought about the formulation of a new law which sought to determine that any girl found to have submitted a false application would be forced into immediate army service without the necessity for any legal process.

Under the guidelines of the rabbonim, the chareidi politicians did whatever they could to stop or delay this change. But they had to constantly be wary of arousing any sort of backlash that could damage the arrangements in place for the truly chareidi women.

Under the guidance of the rabbonim, the chareidi politicians succeeded in tempering the law to provide that the revocation of the exemption will not be automatic but be given by a committee (which has yet to be established). A law to this effect was introduced in 2010, and in spite of chareidi efforts to delay and sidetrack it, was passed into law in 2012. However, "somehow," the law included a very elaborate and time-consuming process for setting up the new committee. So far, more than five years later, this procedure has not been completed and in the meantime the army must use the old cumbersome way.

There are many observers who are upset about this. The Chidush organization filed a motion in the High Court to force the completion of the setup procedures for the new committee, and the Court accepted their proposals and pressured the Knesset to complete the process.

Gedolei Yisroel have directed that despite their objection in principle, this is not an issue about which there should not be a public struggle since if it becomes a public controversy it may reach a point where it can outrage the general public and can damage the present status quo for chareidi girls. The chareidi position is very difficult from a public relations standpoint, since the girls in question were caught lying and are clearly not part of the chareidi community.

In summary there is no threat and even no pressure on real chareidi girls. This only issue is non-religious girls who pretended to be religious.

It is assumed that the writers of a letter two months ago from America who declared, that a new law comes "to change a law that was passed over 40 years ago, and additionally there are reports that the army makes it hard for Jewish girls to get an exemption from service... Therefore we ask all parties in involved not to change the current law," must have been given false or incomplete information.

Gedolei Yisroel in Eretz Yisroel who received this letter were surprised but realized that the American letter writers must have received inaccurate information.

To this day, wall posters are put up in Jerusalem decrying the threats to draft women. It must be presumed that those putting up the posters either were misled or have some agenda that they are trying to advance.


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