Israel’s Military Exemption for Ultra-Orthodox Is Ruled Unconstitutional

Source: The New York Times

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Ultra-Orthodox Jews praying at the Western Wall in the Old City area of Jerusalem in June.CreditAtef Safadi/European Pressphoto Agency

JERUSALEM — Israel’s Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down the current government arrangement allowing for mass exemptions for ultra-Orthodox Jews from compulsory military service, calling it discriminatory and unconstitutional. The ruling redraws the battle lines over an issue that has long roiled Israeli society.

The impassioned debate over military exemptions for strictly Orthodox Jews engaged in full-time Torah study goes to the heart of the struggle for the future character of Israel.

In a country where most Jewish men and women are conscripted at 18, and where the military is hallowed as a social equalizer and a people’s army protecting Israel from threats on its borders, past attempts to reduce the scope of exemptions and create a more equitable sharing of the national burden only seem to have underscored deep social divisions.

“The history of this societal controversy reflects the history of the State of Israel itself,” wrote the departing president of the Supreme Court, Justice Miriam Naor, in the 148-page ruling, noting that the court had already ruled on the issue several times before.

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