Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

The Rise and Fall of Israel’s Tal Law

February 22, 2012 12:36 pm 0 comments

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz with IDF soldiers. Photo: wiki commons.

In August of 1999, then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak appointed retired Judge Tzivi Tal to head a public committee aimed at tackling the issue of the ultra-orthodox exemptions from the IDF.

Although not technically exempting the Yeshiva students, the status quo looked to respect those who dedicated their time to the study of Torah. Yet the growing discontent within Israeli society, where many viewed the existing state of affairs as undemocratic and unequal, and the inconsistency among ultra-orthodox youth – some using the ‘right to study’ as a guise for dodging the draft – forced Israeli politicians to find an alternative.

Tal, and six others, completed a report in April of the following year. The report focused on recommending manners in which ultra-orthodox participation in national service could increase, without preventing Yeshiva students from continuing their religious studies.

On 23 April 2002, the Knesset passed the Tal Law with a majority of 51-41.

The bill detailed conditions for Yeshiva students to qualify for military exemption: At the age of 22, students would be fronted with a choice to either continue their studies or step into the workplace. If they were to choose the latter, they would be required to fulfill national service duties by either enlisting in a minimalist army service of four months with addition of reserve duties according to the army’s needs, or a civilian service of one year, without any salary.

The law was met with widespread criticism within all denominations of Israeli society. Leaders of ultra-orthodox communities condemned the law on ideological grounds, while many secularists felt it let the Hareidim off too lightly.

In any case, by 2005 only several dozen ultra-orthodox students enlisted for military service, and the Knesset officially admitted that the Tal law had failed. The political climate was tense and the public scorned the government’s attitude toward the ultra-orthodox communities as unjust.

However, Judge Tzivi Tal, author of the law, claimed the bill flopped because the IDF “isn’t interested” in implementing it.

In an interview with the Yisrael Hayom newspaper, he said “no attempt was made to recruit them because the IDF does not want them,” citing the reluctance to absorb ultra-orthodox culture within the military as the primary impetus for neglecting religious recruits. “A framework would have to be established including kosher food, religious Shabbos observance, and gender-related Jewish laws,” he explained.

In a short moment of glory, the bill claimed a landmark achievement in 2008, in recognizing Chabad outreach activities as a legal product of national service. The inclusion of Chabad humanitarian programs – such as assisting the ill and infirm, and preparing youth for their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs – as legitimate forms of national service served the bill’s true cause of bridging the gap between the ultra-orthodox communities and military/civilian service ,w hile respecting the commitments of the religious society.

The bill kicked up dust again in the Israeli political sphere when in early January PM Netanyahu announced that the cabinet intends to extend the law’s validity for another five years. The law was originally introduced with a ten-year expiry that ends this August, and required the Knesset to discuss its possible extension or termination six months before.

However, facing political pressure from Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Netanyahu reneged on his earlier statement and pledged “to deliver an alternative within six months” while referring the Tal law issue to a vote in the Knesset.

That vote came through yesterday (Tuesday, 21 February), with Israel’s High Court of Justice ruling by a majority of six to three against extending the law in its current format.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak welcomed the verdict, saying “The Tal Law, after ten years, did not meet expectations, nor did it lead to the required changes in all aspects concerning equally sharing the burden and expanding the number of citizens who undertake the civilian obligations.”

The defense minister emphasized the urgency of passing a new law that would bring equality to sharing the burden in Israeli society. Barak and Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz have both expressed their opinions in the past that all Israelis must be enlisted in either military or civilian service.

In its ten year history, the Tal law failed to meet the hopes and expectations of all corners within Israel’s public, and it will be laid to rest this coming August – without a promising alternative in sight.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture First English-Language Trailer Debuts for Natalie Portman’s Hebrew Film ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness,’ Based on Amos Oz’s Memoir (VIDEO)

    First English-Language Trailer Debuts for Natalie Portman’s Hebrew Film ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness,’ Based on Amos Oz’s Memoir (VIDEO)

    The first English-language trailer for Natalie Portman’s directorial debut — A Tale of Love and Darkness — based on Israeli author Amos Oz’s memoir, was released on Thursday. The movie, originally filmed in Hebrew, tells the story of Oz’s childhood in Jerusalem at the end of the British Mandate and the early years of Israel’s independence. Portman, who was born in Israel and speaks fluent Hebrew, plays the lead role of Fania, the author’s mother. She struggles to raise her son as she deals with inner demons, a […]

    Read more →
  • Features As Berlin Prices Rise, Israelis Turn East for German Real-Estate Bargains

    As Berlin Prices Rise, Israelis Turn East for German Real-Estate Bargains

    JNS.org – Sonnenallee, a street in Berlin’s Neukölln district, looks like it comes straight out of an Arab city — so much so that it goes by the nickname “Gaza Strip.” Kebab and bakery shops are advertised in Arabic; men sit in men-only coffee shops; and bridal shop windows showcase glittery, not-so-stylish gowns. But take a random turn, and you’ll find a swath of bars, burger joints, and Indian restaurants where hip Berliners announce that they have arrived to urban coolness. […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Slays in ‘Wonder Woman’ Trailer (VIDEO)

    Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Slays in ‘Wonder Woman’ Trailer (VIDEO)

    Israeli actress Gal Gadot engages in fierce action sequences in the new Wonder Woman trailer, which Warner Bros. premiered during the San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday. The nearly 3-minute trailer, the first to debut for the superhero film, shows scenes of Diana, princess of the Amazons, fighting alongside men in the battle against the world’s toughest enemies. The first shot of the video shows Wonder Woman discovering a man, Steve Trevor (played by actor Chris Pine), washed ashore. The clip then takes viewers to the all-female island where Wonder Woman was born. […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture A Theatrical Look at Diplomacy and the Oslo Accords (REVIEW)

    A Theatrical Look at Diplomacy and the Oslo Accords (REVIEW)

    Is diplomacy worthwhile, even if the end result isn’t what we hoped for? That is the question, among many others, posed by the new play Oslo, by J.T. Rogers. Making its New York debut at Lincoln Center, the play examines the secret diplomatic process that led to the historic 1993 peace accords. The character of Shimon Peres makes an appearance onstage — and he, along with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, tower over the proceedings. But they mainly do so in absentia. Instead, […]

    Read more →
  • Spirituality/Tradition Sports Israeli Trailblazer Dean Kremer Brings Jewish Values to Nascent Pro Baseball Career

    Israeli Trailblazer Dean Kremer Brings Jewish Values to Nascent Pro Baseball Career

    JNS.org – Other than being part of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, Sandy Koufax and Dean Kremer have something else in common: a respect for Jewish tradition. Koufax — who was recently ranked by ESPN as the best left-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball (MLB) history — decided not to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because the game fell on Yom Kippur. “I would do the same,” Kremer said in an interview. Last month, the 20-year-old Kremer became […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Lead Guitarist of British Rock Band Queen Asks Adam Lambert to Sing in Hebrew During Upcoming Israel Concert

    Lead Guitarist of British Rock Band Queen Asks Adam Lambert to Sing in Hebrew During Upcoming Israel Concert

    The famed lead guitarist of British rock band Queen, Brian May, encouraged Jewish singer-songwriter Adam Lambert to perform in Hebrew during their upcoming joint concert in Israel, an entertainment industry advocacy organization reported on Tuesday. During a recent interview with Israeli television personality Assi Azar, May was played a 2005 video of Lambert singing the popular song Shir L’Shalom, (Song for Peace). May was so impressed by Lambert’s singing of the Hebrew track that he told the American singer, “We have to do that. Let’s […]

    Read more →
  • Sports Kenyan Marathoner to Compete for Israel in Rio Olympics

    Kenyan Marathoner to Compete for Israel in Rio Olympics

    JNS.org – Kenyan-born marathoner Lonah Chemtai is expected to compete for Israel at the Olympics Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil next month after gaining a last minute approval. “I am very proud [to represent Israel] and I hope to achieve a new personal best time,” Chemtai told Reuters. Chemtai, who grew up a rural village in western Kenya, first came to Israel in 2009 to care of the children of her country’s ambassador to Israel. The 27-year-old runner recently gained […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Will Laughs Lead to Love on Show About Orthodox Dating?

    Will Laughs Lead to Love on Show About Orthodox Dating?

    To date or not to date? That is not the question for most Modern Orthodox singles in New York. The question is when will they find their future spouses, and when will their families stop nagging them about having babies? Inspired by the success of the Israeli show “Srugim,” Leah Gottfried, 25, decided she would create and star in her own show, “Soon By You.” “Dating is so serious already,” Gottfried said. “We wanted to take a lighter approach and laugh at the […]

    Read more →