Israel AG orders recruitment of Orthodox Jews after court ruling

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men have long been de facto exempted from Israeli military service [Getty]

Israel’s Attorney General, Gali Baharav-Miara, has ordered the recruitment of 3,000 students from Jewish yeshiva religious schools to the Israeli army, following a unanimous ruling from the country’s top court on Tuesday that ultra-Orthodox Jewish men must serve in the military.

The ruling came as Israel’s brutal war on Gaza continues for a ninth month amid increasing talk of a potential new war with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Baharav-Miara said that 3,000 was only a preliminary number “which does not fully reflect the army’s current needs nor advance the sharing of the burden equally”.

She ordered defence chiefs to draw up a plan to increase the number and “take the necessary steps to maximize recruitment potential”, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men have long had a de facto exemption from military service in Israel, but there is no legal basis for this and the Supreme Court in its ruling said that the state was carrying out “invalid selective enforcement” of the country’s conscription laws.

The Supreme Court’s ruling could potentially present a problem for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose governing coalition includes ultra-Orthodox and far-right religious parties.

Reacting to the ruling, Aryeh Deri, the head of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party said that the Torah is Israel’s “secret weapon against all enemies” and “no power in the world” can stop Jews from studying it.

Israel Eichler, a member of the Knesset from the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism (UTJ) alliance, called the Supreme Court “a dictatorial body” that “wants to force a religious war in the streets and division among Jews”.

He said that ultra-Orthodox Jews who studied the Talmud were making as important a contribution to society as soldiers fighting in Gaza or on the Lebanese front.

Israel’s months-long war against Gaza, which has killed over 37,600 Palestinians, has highlighted limitations in its ability to wage war and manpower shortages.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews, also known as Haredim, make up about 13 percent of Israel’s population and are largely insular, living separately from mainstream society.

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