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Israeli Supreme Court orders stop to yeshivah funding for haredim required to enlist in IDF

The Israeli prime minister had asked for another extension—this time for 30 days—so he could reach a political agreement on the issue.

Young haredi men during morning prayers at Yeshiva Ateret Israel in Jerusalem, Sept. 12, 2013. Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90.
Young haredi men during morning prayers at Yeshiva Ateret Israel in Jerusalem, Sept. 12, 2013. Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90.

Israel’s Supreme Court on Thursday issued an interim order prohibiting the government from providing stipends to some haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, Jewish men who do not serve in the Israel Defense Forces.

Yeshivah students who did not obtain a military service deferral and who have failed to report for IDF service since July 1, 2023, will now be ineligible for the monthly financial stipends, according to the ruling.

The Supreme Court, sitting as the High Court of Justice, also decided that an extended panel of nine justices will hear petitions demanding a universal military draft starting in May.

Earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote to the court asking for another extension—this time for 30 days—so he could reach a political agreement regulating the haredi IDF draft.

“The government’s intention to settle this complex issue, which has not been resolved for decades, is clear from the fact that the government committed in June of last year to resolve the issue within nine months,” wrote the premier in a letter to the court.

However, Hamas’s Oct. 7 terror attacks “obliged us to devote our time and attention mainly to the conduct of the war in the six months that have passed since,” Netanyahu wrote.

He said that while “considerable progress” has been made towards reaching an agreement within the coalition government, the “work is not yet complete.”

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara told the court on Thursday that the state is legally obligated to draft yeshivah students starting on Monday and to stop paying their monthly stipends.

A temporary measure delaying the draft of haredi men is set to expire that day, and the High Court has previously threatened to rule on the matter without taking the PM’s response into consideration.

The issue of haredi enlistment reached a climax this week as Netanyahu’s coalition failed to advance legislation ahead of a court-mandated Wednesday deadline. In a last-minute move, the government requested multiple extensions to file a final response in the case.

The government asked for the delays after the Attorney General’s Office, which has been at odds with the government over its haredi enlistment bill, circulated its draft response to the court regarding the proposed law, stating that conscription of haredim should commence on April 1.

Baharav-Miara has argued that the state lacks the authority to do otherwise, due to the temporary order expiring next week. The attorney general also stated that the state funding of yeshivahs whose students don’t comply with the draft should be halted.

Netanyahu postponed a Cabinet meeting scheduled for Tuesday to approve its draft bill due to continued objections from legal advisers.

Some of the general principles of the government’s proposed legislation include gradually increasing recruitment targets for haredim; economic incentives to encourage service (both positive and negative); and creating a special battalion to accommodate religious sensibilities.

While nearly all Israelis agree that the ultra-Orthodox community should play a larger role in Israel’s national defense, coalition members have questioned the behavior and timing of the Supreme Court, the attorney general and certain members of the wartime government.

For more than 70 years, a policy dating back to the nascent days of the Israeli state has allowed ultra-Orthodox yeshivah students to postpone their compulsory military service until they reach the age of exemption.

The number of haredi men studying in yeshivahs who are deemed eligible for IDF service is estimated at between 63,000 and 66,000. Since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, 1,140 haredim enlisted, of which 600 were over the age of 26, the current age of exemption for them.

Speaking to students at an ultra-Orthodox school in the city of Tiberias in the Galilee on Thursday, United Torah Judaism lawmaker Moshe Gafni, chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee, said, “I bless the soldiers who risk their lives in Gaza and here on the northern border; I pray with all the people of Israel that they return home safe and sound, but without Torah students, we have no future.

“Without the Torah scholars, we have no right to exist in this land. After 2,000 years of exile, the people of Israel returned to being a Jewish nation in their own land, and this is in the merit of the Torah scholars who continue the tradition,” declared Gafni.

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