The Supreme Court has had its say. Without referring to the engrossing legal debate between the majority and the minority, it stated in a historic and courageous ruling that the Tal Law was unconstitutional and must not be extended beyond its August expiry. In this way, the defense minister's legal basis for indefinitely postponing the drafting of the vast majority of ultra-Orthodox youths into the army will be erased.
Hopefully this will end the immoral, un-Jewish and intolerable situation that has existed since the founding of the state in which an entire community has been exempt from defending the country. A reasonable arrangement agreed to by David Ben-Gurion upon the establishment of the state and after the destruction of Torah centers during the Holocaust has been distorted and become a farce, a monster. Under the Ben-Gurion agreement, 400 yeshiva students were freed from serving in the Israel Defense Forces. But in 2011 alone, around 8,000 Haredim were exempted, almost an entire division.
It's not by chance that the two religious justices on the bench were among the majority that wrote a reasoned and moving ruling annulling the law and doing away with the ultra-Orthodox's wholesale draft exemption. These two justices are yeshiva graduates and outstanding scholars who know the value of studying the Torah. But despite this, or perhaps because of it, they reached their conclusion.
The key word in this historic ruling is proportionality. Court President Dorit Beinisch said the law had to be annulled not only because it harmed equality, but also, and most importantly, because it harmed it disproportionately. This is the entire story. Studying the Torah is indeed a central value in Judaism and we must ensure that at all times and at any hour we have scholars who are studying the Torah in the batei midrash.
But since the giving of the Torah, the Jewish people has never experienced a phenomenon in which an entire community, an entire sector of the population, just sat and studied the Torah. This did not happen during the first or second temples, and not in Babylon, Europe or North Africa. That is not the ideal of the Torah. The prerogative to study the Torah indeed helps the IDF reign victorious in battle, but the ones who decide the battle are the soldiers themselves. That has been the case since the days of Joshua.
The Haredi position that anyone who wants to study the Torah, without restrictions, should be released from the army and the working world smacks of hypocrisy and deception. The Haredim hope the entire nation becomes repentant and ultra-Orthodox, and what will happen then? Shall we return to the days of cash handouts from Jews abroad and ask the Americans to defend us? The Jewish people needs excellent scholars, but they have always been special and few and far between, not 72,000 people.
We could have a special arrangement whereby every year we allow a limited number of geniuses to devote themselves to Torah study as a profession. Beyond that, every young man must be drafted - this is a sacred principle.
Some people say the Haredim will not enlist in any case. Maybe that's true. But today they receive the legitimacy to avoid serving in the army, and that legitimacy is a mark of Cain on Israeli society. Tomorrow, when they are obligated by law to serve - even without sending the police to fetch them - anyone who does not serve will bear the mark of Cain on his forehead. And the state will treat him accordingly, with all that implies.
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