We Need to End This Arrangement

Religious youth must serve in the military for the full three years. This is the only way it will be possible to bridge the gaps of hatred and preconceived ideas that exist between the secular, religious and ultra-Orthodox communities.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak is convinced the Israeli nation is comprised of a bunch of idiots whom he can manipulate at will. This time, he rolled his eyes heavenward and announced he would present the government with a proposal to extend the Tal Law (which grants preferential status to ultra-Orthodox men of army age ) for only one more year - as opposed to the prime minister, who initially spoke about five years. What courage! What cowardice!

Barak knows there is no difference between one year and five years. He knows that next year the Tal Law will be extended once again. But from his point of view, it is fine if the ultra-Orthodox don't serve in the Israel Defense Forces at all and the secular donkey continues to carry the burden. Besides, none of that is in any way important. What is important is merely the depth of the padding on the ministerial armchair and the thickness of the mattress in a Parisian hotel suite.

Barak thinks the idiots have forgotten, but all of us still remember how the Tal Law came into this world. The story began a few months before the 1999 elections, when Barak wanted to curry favor with secular voters. He therefore introduced a law in the Knesset for the compulsory conscription of all ultra-Orthodox men. He announced enthusiastically, "It is not possible to continue with the unequal division of carrying the security burden ... and even if all the heads of the ultra-Orthodox parties come to me and promise me festively that they will support me in the upcoming elections in return for withdrawing this bill, I shall stand by it without the slightest hesitation.

"There is," he added, "no reason why, at military funerals, soldiers wearing skullcaps should stand alongside secular soldiers and new immigrants soldiers from Russia, while not a single son of an ultra-Orthodox man stands there too." And then he coined the election slogan: "One people, one induction."

The secular population believed him and voted for him. But a moment after winning the elections, he betrayed them and let the ultra-Orthodox join his coalition. And in 2000 he gave them the Tal Law, which is a legal authorization for evading military service and being a parasite. The exact opposite of everything he had promised on the eve of the elections.

Ever since then, "the law for evading military service" has become the most prominent symbol of discrimination. The law discriminates between different kinds of blood. It is in contradiction to the Declaration of Independence, it leads to hatred and alienation, it impairs human dignity and the principle of equality, and it is at variance with the Basic Laws.

Ultra-Orthodox mothers actually love this law. It allows them to sleep well at night, with no fear of an unexpected knock at the door.

But the discrimination is not just in favor of the ultra-Orthodox community. It also exists toward the hesder yeshivas. Very few people know that the soldiers who take part in the hesder (Hebrew for arrangement ) program do not serve 36 months like secular soldiers. They have an arrangement whereby they serve "about half and half." This arrangement states that their military service will last for only 16 months while their studies in the yeshiva are spread over a period of 20 months. Why should an arrangement like this not be given to any secular soldier who wants to study computers, engineering, economics or history at university? Are these subjects not as important as Gemara?

Therefore, it is not sufficient to cancel only the Tal Law and to recruit all the ultra-Orthodox to the IDF. That is clearly imperative. But the hesder must also be canceled and religious youth must serve in the military for the full three years. These are the true remedies for the alienation in our society. This is the only way it will be possible to bridge the gaps of hatred and preconceived ideas that exist between the secular, religious and ultra-Orthodox communities. This can be done in the melting pot of the IDF.

But even before this dream can take shape, the head of Shas, Eli Yishai, made it clear this week why it is that his sons and those of his friends do not enlist in the army. He said the failure of the Second Lebanon War can be attributed to the fact that the soldiers "did not lift their eyes up to the Creator of this world."

That is to say, the 121 soldiers who sacrificed their lives in order to defend the evaders of military service in the yeshivas, including the sons of Yishai and all the Shas leadership, are in fact guilty of their own deaths. But just a moment, aren't the yeshiva students supposed to pray while the soldiers are meant to fight? Isn't that the arrangement, Mr Yishai? So perhaps it was actually the prayers in the yeshivas that were not so effective, after the government - in which you were a senior member - decided on that hasty and arrogant war in Lebanon.

At all events, it is appropriate to dismiss Yishai from the government for these destructive words. In that way he will also have sufficient time to pray every day in an attempt to atone for his disparaging remarks.

Remove your shoes, Yishai, when you talk about the soldiers of the IDF. You do not have anywhere in your entire body what they all have, even in one of their nails.