haredim ultra-Orthodox - Micha Odenheimer  - October 28 2010
Ultra-Orthodox men studying in yeshiva. Photo by Micha Odenheimer
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Hundreds of high-school students across the country are expected to boycott classes on Sunday in protest at the Tal Law, legislation that allows full-time Yeshiva students to defer their military service.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to let the Knesset decide the law's future, after initially saying he would put an additional five-year extension to a cabinet vote on Sunday. Netanyahu changed course following objections by Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Debate on an extention of the law must begin by February 1 if the government is to preserve the option of extending it beyond its current expiration date in August.

Despite the prime minister's decision to scrap the cabinet vote, the student walkout is expected to go ahead on Sunday from 9 A.M. to 10:30 A.M. in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ashkelon, Tiberias and Ramat Hasharon. Some students plan to protest outside their schools. Others are expected to study in the corridors or hold panel discussions on the issue.

"Although there won't be a debate on the law in the cabinet, we intend to go to Jerusalem to come and say that we are not all excited over the change [in the location] of the debate. Instead, we believe we have to keep our finger on the pulse to immediately rescind this law," said Zahara Berger Tzur of the Forum for Equal Service.

One of the initiators of the student walkout, Yotam Berger, is a senior at the Hebrew University High School in Jerusalem. (He is no relation to Berger Tzur but is also a member of the Forum for Equal Service. ) Berger said 4,000 high-school students from around the country have signed a protest letter against the Tal Law. Berger's school, which is commonly know as "Leyada," will be holding a panel discussion on the legislation.

Protesters at a so-called "suckers encampment" - set up near the Central Railway Station in Tel Aviv - have collected about 1,000 signatures against the law in recent days.

Although about 1,000 students from around the country announced their intention on a Facebook page, created in support of the protest, to boycott classes on Sunday, Berger expects the numbers actually staying away to be in the hundreds.

"We are trying to draw a red line. The current status quo cannot continue," Berger said. "The voter deserves to know what the prime minister thinks and whether or not he is rescinding the Tal Law. I am very dissatisfied with the [debate's] postponement."