Yeshiva students and teachers last month protesting a High Court ruling.
Yeshiva students and teachers last month protesting a High Court ruling. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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The cabinet secretly decided two weeks ago to cancel compulsory military service for ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students, despite the objections of the Israel Defense Forces.

The decision, which followed pressure by the treasury and ultra-Orthodox coalition parties, was made during the intense debates on the Economic Arrangements Law in mid-July.

Since the move was not part of the Economic Arrangements Law it was not published and few people knew about it. It is not clear why ministers such as Defense Minister Ehud Barak and cabinet members from the Labor Party did not discuss the decision publicly.

The cabinet decided that anyone who studies in an ultra-Orthodox yeshiva up to age 22 would be able to make do with one year of national service, in a hospital or in the Magen David Adom ambulance service, for example. Immediately after that he would be able to join the labor force.

Until now, according to the controversial Tal Law, anyone who stopped studying at the age of 22 could be recruited by the IDF for an abbreviated service.

Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi objected several times recently to any change in the law, and against letting 22-year-old ultra-Orthodox men who abandoned their studies evade the draft.

Ultra-Orthodox rabbis and politicians were concerned by the change in regulations stipulating that every 22-year-old man could leave the yeshiva for national service regardless of his marital status. Since the Tal Law's enactment, the Defense Ministry has distinguished between single yeshiva students and married ones.

Until now Defense Ministry regulations exempted from military service only married yeshiva students aged 22 and above with one child, or married 26-year-olds with no children.