High Court annuls military exemptions for ultra-Orthodox

The Tal Law did not assure an equal sharing of society's burdens. (FLASH90)

JERUSALEM (JWN and agencies)—Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled 6-3 on Tuesday that the so-called Tal Law, which grants military service deferments to full-time yeshiva students, is unconstitutional. As such, the Knesset is now barred from renewing the law in its present form.

The Tal Law was passed 10 years ago and is due to expire in August. A provision of the law is that, if the Knesset wishes to consider extending it, it must begin the debate at least six months before the expiration date.

“The Tal Law, after 10 years, did not meet expectations, nor did it lead to the required changes … concerning equally sharing the burden,” Barak told reporters.

Barak said it was urgent that Israel pass a new law so that all citizens equally share society’s burdens.

Unless the Knesset passes a revised bill, the ruling should mean that some 62,000 yeshiva students and ultra-Orthodox youths will be drafted into the Israel Defense Forces this August. There are already some 7,000 yeshiva students who serve according to the Tal Law’s requirements. Skeptics, however, doubt that such a massive conscription will occur.

Outgoing Supreme Court President Justice Dorit Beinisch wrote in the majority opinion that “apart from a certain improvement in the implementation of the law, one cannot say that the law’s means achieved their goals, and it seems that certain blocs influence its potential to be fully fulfilled. That being the case, one cannot but determine that the law is unconstitutional …. Originally the legislation harbored the hope that the law would launch a social process that without coercion would encourage ultra-Orthodox people to serve in the military or take part in national civil service. These hopes were dashed.”