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...

  • Features World Graves of Jewish Pirates in Jamaica Give Caribbean Tourists Taste of Little-Known History

    Graves of Jewish Pirates in Jamaica Give Caribbean Tourists Taste of Little-Known History

    Tour operators are calling attention to Jamaica’s little-known Jewish heritage by arranging visits to historic Jewish sites on the Caribbean island, including a cemetery where Jewish pirates are buried. A report in Travel and Leisure magazine describes the Hunts Bay Cemetery in Kingston, where there are seven tombstones engraved with Hebrew benedictions and skull and crossbones insignia. According to the report, centuries ago, Jewish pirates sailed the waters of Jamaica and settled in Port Royal. The town, once known as “the wickedest city in the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Filmmaker Eyal Resh Embraces the Challenge of Telling Israel’s Story (VIDEO)

    Filmmaker Eyal Resh Embraces the Challenge of Telling Israel’s Story (VIDEO)

    JNS.org – Telling Israel’s story. It’s the specific title of a short film that Eyal Resh created last year. It’s also the theme behind the 27-year-old Israeli filmmaker’s broader body of work. The widely viewed “Telling Israel’s Story” film—directed by Resh for a gala event hosted by the Times of Israel online news outlet—seemingly begins as a promotional tourism video, but quickly evolves to offer a multilayered perspective. “I want to tell you a story about a special place for me,” a young woman whispers […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Israel Geeks Out: Science, Art and Tech Event Embodies Jewish State’s ‘DNA’

    Israel Geeks Out: Science, Art and Tech Event Embodies Jewish State’s ‘DNA’

    JNS.org – The entrance to Jerusalem’s Sacher Park was transformed from April 25-27 by a fire-breathing robotic dragon, which flailed its arms and attempted to take flight. The robot, a signature feature at Jerusalem’s first-ever “Geek Picnic,” was one of more than 150 scientific amusements available for the public to experience. This particular dragon was designed by students from Moscow’s Art Industrial Institute in conjunction with the Flacon design factory, said Anatasia Shaminer, a student who helped facilitate the display. Children […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Opinion The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love. CreateSpace, 2015. The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love, is a very interesting novel. Equally a political and romantic thriller, at times a real page-turner, it gets you intimately involved in the dire situation in today’s Syria, as well as in the romantic entanglements of its mostly New York-based characters — whose entanglements just might determine the fate of that dire situation in Syria. Along the way it introduces a really important idea that somehow […]

    Read more →
  • Features Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    JNS.org – Aside from Israel itself, those with a vested interest in the Jewish state are accustomed to tracking developments related to Middle East players such as Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. But much global attention has recently focused on the Caucasus region at the Europe-Asia border, specifically on the suddenly intensified violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh area of western Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while not taking place in Israel’s immediate neighborhood, does have what one scholar called […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    JNS.org – On Friday, April 22, 196 nations across the world mark Earth Day, the annual day dedicated to environmental protection that was enacted in 1970. Not to be forgotten on this day is Israel, which is known as the “start-up nation” for its disproportionate amount of technological innovation, including in the area of protecting the environment. For Earth Day 2016, JNS.org presents a sampling of the Jewish state’s internal achievements and global contributions in the environmental realm. Water conservation Israeli […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture World New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    Holocaust humor and the role that laughter played in the lives of Jews during World War II are the focus of a documentary that made its world premiere on Monday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. In The Last Laugh, first- and second-generation survivors, as well as famous Jewish and non-Jewish comedians, discuss their thoughts on when joking about the death camps is appropriate or taboo. “Nazi humor, that’s OK. Holocaust humor, no,” Jewish comedic giant, actor and filmmaker Mel Brooks says in the film. “Anything I […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    JNS.org – Sherri Mandell’s life was devastated on May 8, 2001, when her 13-year-old son Koby was murdered by terrorists on the outskirts of the Israeli Jewish community of Tekoa. Yet Mandell not only shares the story of her loss, but also celebrates the lessons she has learned from tragedy. Indeed, “celebrate” is this Israeli-American author’s word choice. Her second book, The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration (Toby Press), came out earlier this year. The lesson: in every celebration, there is […]

    Read more →