Immoral Laws Turn Israel Into Sodom

The latest example: the bill that defers ultra-Orthodox Jews from army service. Secular politicians like Yair Lapid had better fight against it.

Aner Shalev
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Aner Shalev

My grandfather, Aharon Shidlovsky, among the founders of kibbutz Kvutzat Kinneret, asked me many years ago whether I knew the difference between Sodom and every other place. After all, he said, there’s bad everywhere, so what made Sodom so special? He answered before I could give it a thought. At Sodom, the bad had become law; the bad stemmed from obeying the law, not breaking it.

It’s hard to think of a distinction more relevant to our own times, which are flooded with bad and immoral laws and bills. There’s the law that imprisons people whose only crime is to be an asylum seeker. There’s the constitutional discrimination against Palestinians in the territories. There are laws prohibiting religious marriage or kashrut permits except through the Chief Rabbinate. And there are laws enshrining religious coercion and prohibiting civil marriage, unlike the situation in the rest of the world.

The bill on “equal sharing of the burden” in the military, in which the Shaked Committee is now deeply immersed, is also a patently bad and immoral law. Surprisingly, the ultra-Orthodox, the Haredim, in whose favor the bill scandalously discriminates, have come out against it.

Meanwhile, the non-Haredim, particularly the knights of the secular world like Finance Minister Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid party, are promoting it. In this way they’re pulling the rug out from under themselves and their voters, and for all intents and purposes they’re adopting the Haredi ethos, under which the Torah is more important than the state.

Speaking on Channel 2’s “Meet the Press” about a week ago, Lapid said he won’t remain in the government if there’s no true equal sharing of the burden. At the same time, he is promoting a bill that grants a sweeping exemption to Haredim for the next four years, a lifelong exemption to 1,800 so-called prodigies annually, and the option for Haredim to postpone their military service until age 24. Then they’ll be able to choose between brief civilian service and military service with a bloated monthly salary of thousands of shekels.

That is extreme discrimination – enshrined in law – against non-Haredim, who are drafted into the army at age 18 with almost no salary. This legislation is unlikely to stand up in the High Court of Justice. With the other immoral laws, it turns Israel into Sodom.

The debate between Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi regarding criminal sanctions is intended to camouflage the infuriating discrimination that the law perpetuates. The Shaked Committee has now created even more discrimination: Combat soldiers will both risk their lives and serve longer than soldiers on the home front. Lapid knows full well that if this bill passes there will be no equal sharing of the burden. And if that’s the case, by his own declaration, he will have to resign.

Yesh Atid’s hypocrisy in this matter is rivaled only by that of the ultra-Orthodox. This month they have protested the High Court’s ruling that financial support no longer be given to yeshiva students whose army service is deferred by the defense minister’s order, an order whose constitutionality is questionable.

The protesters shouted slogans like “We survived Hitler, we’ll survive this,” and “We’ll emigrate to the United States, where they allow Torah study.” This gives the impression that Hitler’s great crime was stopping generous financial support for yeshiva students whose draft into the Wehrmacht was deferred, or that the United States gives stipends to yeshiva students, saving them from the need to work.

Demographic data show that Israel will collapse if it continues to subsidize the Haredim’s dodging of work and the draft, but Lapid has just increased funds to the yeshivas for 2014, as if he were a Haredi wheeler-dealer. If he wants to be true to his pledges, he must bring down the bill on equal sharing of the burden, or resign.

Ultra-Orthodox Israelis protest the government's move to draft yeshiva students to the Israel Defense Forces, Feb. 6, 2014.Credit: Ilan Assayag

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