Israeli Advocacy Group Urges Haredi Draft Must Not Be at Expense of Women Soldiers

Groups cite numerous examples of service of ultra-Orthodox men causing detrimental changes in the service of women soldiers.

A women's security policy group is preparing to warn the Knesset that the drafting of ultra-Orthodox men into the Israel Defense Forces must not come at the expense of women soldiers.

The Women's Forum for Policy and National Security, along with by WIZO, intends to make this point on Friday before the newly-minted Knesset committee established to examine ways of expanding the draft.

The ultra-Orthodox draft has become a hot-button issue, especially since the High Court of Justice declared unconstitutional the Tal Law granting widespread exemptions to the ultra-Orthodox. The law is due to expire in August.

The forum will also demand that any change involving the draft of ultra-Orthodox men include only the regular army and not the career army, and that the search for candidates be conducted only on merit and not based on gender.

Both the women's forum and WIZO present numerous examples in their position papers in which the military service of ultra-Orthodox men, and even mainstream Orthodox men, have caused detrimental changes in the service of women soldiers.

They cite, for instance, the case of a woman communications officer who was not assigned to a particular unit because of her gender, and the reassignment of female combat soldiers in the Artillery Corps because soldiers from hesder yeshivas (who combine their yeshiva studies with periods of army service ) had joined the unit.

The women's groups also note that there are no women's sections in IDF synagogues; female soldiers are not allowed to read aloud from the Passover Haggadah on Seder night; and certain units refuse to take women shooting instructors, among other examples.

Sixteen organizations are slated to testify before the committee, including the National Students Union, an association of hesder yeshivas and a group of reserve brigade and battalion commanders, as well as the forum and WIZO.