Thanks to Hiddush - a serious loophole closed
The Just this week, on Tuesday, following Hiddush's petition, the Knesset approved regulations that would, for the first time, put a halt to the mass phenomenon of false claims of religiosity aimed at receiving exemptions from military service. Thousands of young women are exempted from IDF service every year on the basis of false affidavits claiming that their religious lifestyles prevent them from serving in the army, even though they lead secular lives.
Almost six years have passed since the Knesset voted to amend the Defense Service Law to allow the IDF to act against women who made false religious claims, by establishing a committee that would be able to revoke such exemptions when proven that the IDF recruits did not meet the criteria set forth in the law. Until this week, such exemptions could only be revoked via prosecution and conviction by in a court of law.
In the amendment to the Law, six years ago, the Knesset determined that within 30 days, regulations to regulate the establishment and operation of that committee would be brought before the Knesset for approval. Despite the passage of time and the ever increasing cases of draft dodging based on false claims, the necessary regulations were not drafted or approved - until Hiddush intervened. We appealed to the High Court of Justice in early 2017 demanding that the Knesset and the Minister of Defense be required to act on this matter, as required by law. Finally, on February 13, 2018, the Joint Committee approved the text of the regulations.
In the Joint Committee deliberations, the ultra-Orthodox Knesset members made considerable efforts to create a filibuster to prevent discussion of the regulations on their merits. However, despite their opposition, Members of Knesset from the coalition and the opposition passed the regulations. According to the approved regulations, The Minister of Defense will appoint a committee of five members, headed by a judge, including two IDF representatives, one representative of the Chief Rabbinate and one former military rabbi. Significantly, it was determined that at least three members of the committee would be women.
Hiddush is proud of the role we played in reaching the approval of the necessary regulations for dealing effectively with the masses of false claims of religious lifestyles. We greatly appreciate the determination of the Chairman of the Committee to bring this process to a successful conclusion.
The mass demonstrations and many headlines in the Haredi media these days have made it clear how strong the desire is of ultra-Orthodox politicians to delay and disrupt the approval of the regulations. It is well known that the ultra-Orthodox parties and the Chief Rabbinate maintain that it is forbidden to recruit women into the army. The next test of the rule of law and the principle of equality of burden will be the implementation of the regulations, and Hiddush will continue to be vigilant in order to ensure that they will be implemented in such a way as to finally stop the mass disgrace of false religious claims, which harm both state security and Judaism itself.
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New polling reaffirms Hiddush findings
The January 2018 issue of the monthly Peace Index, published jointly by Tel Aviv University and the Israel Democracy Institute, touches upon key confrontation points along the spectrum of religion-state issues on the public's and political class's minds at this time.
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The January 2018 Peace Index reaffirms both Hiddush's findings and our view that these issues hold a major key to understanding the complex nature of Israeli politics and the way out of this embarrassing and harmful anomaly, which is to overcome the great void between the Israeli public's will and the actions of Israel's politicians.
RELEVANT FINDINGS (Directly from the PEACE INDEX REPORT):
Opening businesses on Shabbat: for six out of seven types of businesses, a majority of the public prefers them to be open on Shabbat.
Devoting themselves to Torah study? Some claim that the study of Torah by haredi young people protects Israel no less than the military service of non-haredi young people. A majority of the Jewish public (70%) disagrees with that claim.
Haredim in the government: Only a minority of the Jewish public (27%) prefers a government that includes the haredi parties, while the majority (53%) prefers a government without them.
The Peace Index distinguishes between two demographic groups among Israel's "traditional" Jewish population, which Hiddush has repeatedly emphasized the critical distinction between [as defined by the Central Bureau of Statistics]: 1) "traditional, close to religion, and 2) "traditional, not so close to religion." It is important to realize that many among the second group share the secular public's views on policies in terms of the clash of religion and state.
It is a sad fact that Israel's political "powers that be" are self-righteous (without any basis in reality) when they claim to be the genuine representatives of the public's will on matters of religion and state. The opposite is true, as is borne out in the Peace Index, as well as in Hiddush's repeated polling! The overwhelming majority of the public wants a government coalition without the Haredi parties. The public wants them out of governmental positions!
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