Israel turns to ultra-Orthodox Jews for military invasion as Gaza resists

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men protest against attempts to change government policy that grants ultra-Orthodox Jews' exemptions from military conscription, in West Jerusalem. (Photo/Reuters)

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant has implored the government to come up with a new draft law that would force ultra-Orthodox Jews to serve in the military, saying the ongoing war in besieged Gaza leaves the country with "no other choice."

Military service is compulsory for Jewish males, but politically powerful ultra-Orthodox parties have won exemptions for their communities to allow men to study full-time in religious seminaries.

This has prompted widespread anger and resentment from the majority.

"The Torah has protected Judaism for 2,500 years; however, without our physical existence, there's no spiritual existence," Gallant said during a press conference on Wednesday evening.

He said that in the current security situation, with a war in besieged Gaza dragging toward its fifth month and tensions rising on the northern border with Lebanon's Hezbollah, "every sector of the country needs to work together to protect our home."

Gallant added that he would be extending the enlistment and reserve duty requirements for the military as well.

There are approximately 60,000 ultra-Orthodox males of military age who are not serving, according to Hiddush, an organisation that promotes religious equality. Israel mobilised some 300,000 reservists since October 7.

New draft law

On Monday, Israel's Supreme Court began hearing arguments about a new draft law.

Gallant noted that Israel's courts have been hearing arguments over more equal draft laws for more than 25 years and stressed that Israel's unprecedented security situation required the government to take firm action.

The government is required to submit a new draft law in the coming months based on a court decision from last year. Ultra-Orthodox parties, which are a key coalition partner of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, hope to continue the system of exemptions.

Opponents, including key members of a mass protest movement against Netanyahu's judicial overhaul, say the exemptions are unfair and must end.

In the past, attempts to overhaul the draft law to include ultra-Orthodox have drawn tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox to the streets in large, violent protests that blocked major roadways.

On Monday, thousands of ultra-Orthodox scuffled with police in West Jerusalem, blocking traffic for a few hours.


Source: TRT