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.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Blogs 10 New Hollywood Movies That Aim to Show Support for Israel (SATIRE)

    10 New Hollywood Movies That Aim to Show Support for Israel (SATIRE)

    Ten major film studios are currently in production on projects that promote a decidedly pro-Israeli narrative. In famously liberal Hollywood, such a development has left mouths agape and set tongues a wagging. Since the Jewish State began defending itself from the thousands of rockets that Hamas has hurled at it – as well as ongoing terror attacks and murders, the overwhelming number of Tinseltown’s producers, directors, actors, and studio moguls have remained indifferent to the plight of millions of Israeli [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Israel Sports So Close: Israeli Judoka Loses Crown in World Cup Final, Finishes With Silver (VIDEO)

    So Close: Israeli Judoka Loses Crown in World Cup Final, Finishes With Silver (VIDEO)

    Israeli Judoka Yarden Gerbi (63kg), 25, of Netanya, on Thursday lost the final round at the Judo World Cup, and her world title to Clarisse Agbegnenou of France, at a match held in Russia. “I have mixed feelings,” Gerbi told Israeli Army radio. But, “I shouldn’t assume that I’d win the world Judo championship twice in a row,” she admitted. Gerbi won gold in Rio De Janeiro last year. “When I made my decision, I knew it was going to [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity Surviving the Holocaust by Hiding Their Faith (REVIEW)

    Surviving the Holocaust by Hiding Their Faith (REVIEW)

    “Jews Out!” was just the name of a child’s game that three little girls played in World War II Europe. But all is not as it seems because the three girls were Jewish, but hiding their true identities. In award-winning author R. D. Rosen’s riveting non-fiction work, Such Good Girls, “Jews Out!” wasn’t a game; it was a struggle for survival. The girls, Sophie, Flora, and Carla, grew up at a time and a place that did not allow them [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities Twenty Years On, the Real and Radical Legacy of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

    Twenty Years On, the Real and Radical Legacy of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

    JNS.org – “He was part hippie, part yippie, part beatnik, and part New Age,” wrote Elli Wohlgelernter in a Jerusalem Post eulogy in 1994, following the Oct. 20 passing of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. Twenty years later, more robust accounts of Carlebach’s life have come to the surface. Earlier this year, Natan Ophir published the book Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Life, Mission & Legacy. This past summer, Rabbi Shlomo Katz’s The Soul of Jerusalem hit the shelves. But even the authors will admit [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Music Beatlemania Invades the Gaza Strip (SATIRE)

    Beatlemania Invades the Gaza Strip (SATIRE)

    As Hamas loses its grip on power in the Gaza Strip as a result of war, poverty and disillusionment, the Islamist terrorist group has developed an ingenious way to raise the morale of the 1.7 million Palestinian Arabs it was elected to serve. While currently focused on delivering a rocket into every Israeli home, Hamas has not left its own people behind. To gently wipe away the tears of children strategically placed inside kindergartens as human shields, the Hamas Interior Ministry [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    In a strong statement that challenges the historic divide between Christianity and Judaism, Pope Francis recently proclaimed, “Inside every Christian is a Jew.” But if you look at Renaissance artworks that depict Jesus, you will not find any evidence of a Jew inside the Christianized Jesus — even though the Gospels in the New Testament tell us that Jesus was Jewish to the core. Getting that point across to the public is a daunting task, as I learned in interviews I [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities Recycling His Roots

    Recycling His Roots

    JNS.org – Having started his career playing on his family’s pots and pans, Jewish musician Billy Jonas has maintained this homemade performance ethic while spreading his messages of simple living and environmentalism to a shared home throughout the world. After beginning in the kitchen, Jonas soon moved to the music room, where he picked up the piano, guitar, and trombone. These days, the multi-talented multi-instrumentalist plays on with pretty much anything he can find, including cans, bottles buckets, and other recycled-object [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    JNS.org – Sara Davidson’s The December Project is a new book that should be read by all senior citizens, and by those who hope to live a long life, for it raises a question that most of us have not been taught how to answer: What should we do in that final stage of our lives? Many of us continue working past the traditional retirement age of 65, not because we need the money and not because we find the [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.