newsIsrael at War

Will haredi draft bill extend exemption period by 15 years?

Currently, an ultra-Orthodox man begins studying in yeshivah at 18 and can drag it out until 26 before legally working, so he has no incentive to serve.

Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip, March 2024. Credit: IDF.
Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip, March 2024. Credit: IDF.

As part of the effort to accommodate haredi lawmakers over mandatory military service, a committee of lawmakers in Israel’s governing coalition is drafting legislation that, based on recommendations by senior security officials, would raise the exemption age to 35 or even 40.

The maximum exemption age is currently set at 26, meaning that after that ultra-Orthodox men can no longer get their exemption extended based on their declaration that “Torah study is my profession” under the controversial law that the High Court of Justice has asked the government to revise. While the exemption is in effect, the man who has not enlisted is required to study full-time in a yeshivah and cannot legally work.

Rather than lowering the exemption age to as low as possible, as has been recommended throughout the years of formulating conscription bills, with various proposals suggesting lowering it to 21-23 in an attempt to integrate haredim into the workforce at an early age despite not serving in the military, the security establishment now recommends raising the exemption age to 35 or even 40.

The goal is to make young men think twice before committing to years of not working and only studying in yeshivah. Currently, a haredi young man begins studying in yeshivah at 18 and by 23-24 can drag it out for another two years until 26 before going out to work, so he has no incentive to enlist.

Raising the exemption age could cause yeshivah students to think twice about choosing a path from which they would only enter the workforce at a late age, and many of them, who are unable to study for so many years in yeshivah, would presumably seek to perform military or national service and enter the labor force.

The advantage of the proposal is that the haredi side can also say that it is a clause that strengthens yeshivah students since those who want to study Torah will be able to do so undisturbed until the age of 35-40—which aligns with the narrative of ultra-Orthodox community leaders that “those who do not study in yeshivah should enlist.”

The proposed clause is being examined positively by all parties on the committee, and even the haredi representatives on the panel have expressed willingness to accept such a clause.

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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