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...

  • Book Reviews Personalities How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    JNS.org – What would you do if you found out that you had only three more months to live? Gordon Zacks was a successful businessman, a leader of Jewish life, and a confidante and adviser to President George H.W. Bush. He knew that he had prostate cancer, but doctors advised him that it was very slow-growing and nothing to worry about. Then came the day when the doctors told him his cancer metastasized to his liver, and that he had [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater 10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    Last month, my one-man show Hoaxocaust! Written and performed by Barry Levey with the generous assistance of the Institute for Political and International Studies, Tehran ran in the New York International Fringe Festival, where it won an Overall Excellence Award. The play has now been selected to run in the Fringe Encores Series at Baruch College’s Performing Arts Center, for four performances which started on Thursday, September 11. Getting the play to the stage was not easy, however. Here are [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Phenomenon: Tel Aviv-based musician and “sampler” extraordinaire, Kutiman (aka Ophir Kutiel) has hit another one out of the park with “Give It Up,” a fully-functioning song in its own right, assembled from hundreds of ameteur and instructional music videos. The Jerusalem-born musical prodigy is best know for his diverse online musical projects. In the latest video, uploaded to YouTube on Sept. 12th, Kutiel thanked most of the musicians and individuals he chose to include in the meticulously-edited clip, which opens with [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    A recently released behind-the-scenes reel of Ridley Scott’s upcoming film Exodus: Gods and Kings shows just how far the director has gone to portray one of the Bible’s most famous narratives. In the clip, which shows scenes involving up to 4,000 extras, the visionary director discusses what drew him to the biblical tale of Moses. “The Moses story was a massive challenge, which I really love. I wanted to explore the complexity of his character and I was stunned by [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    JNS.org – Since 2006, the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) cable and satellite TV network has hosted “The Projected Image,” a month-long showcase examining how different cultural and ethnic groups have been portrayed on the big screen. At last, after previously covering African Americans, Asians, the LGBT community, Latinos, Native Americans, Arabs, and people with disabilities, the annual series is delving into Jewish film this month. “The Projected Image: The Jewish Experience on Film,” whose first segment aired Sept. 2, runs [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    The sight of young girls in pinafores and young boys wearing peyos – sidelocks – dangling over their ears is a sure sign that you have entered the enigmatic precincts of the Hasidim – the pious ones. Veteran New York Times journalist Joseph Berger’s new book, THE PIOUS ONES: The World of Hasidim and their Battles with America, takes the reader on a journey into the enclaves where various sects of Jews live a seemingly outmoded way of life in [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    JNS.org – Today’s comedy superstars, especially those whose careers are driven by television, may very well owe their success to pioneering Jewish entertainer Milton Berle. Born Mendel Berlinger in Manhattan in 1908, Berle became America’s first small-screen star. Aptly nicknamed “Mr. Television,” he influenced and helped promote the work of hundreds of younger comics. “Milton Berle was deceptively successful and very Jewish,” says Lawrence Epstein, author of The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America, published the year [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    JNS.org – Idan Ravin’s friends chipped in to buy him a humble but life-changing bar mitzvah gift—a basketball hoop his father attached to the roof of his garage. Little did his friends know that years later, he would be the personal trainer of National Basketball Association (NBA) stars Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, and Stephen Curry. Ravin’s new book, “The Hoops Whisperer: On the Court and Inside the Head of Basketball’s Best Players,” details his rise from a Jewish upbringing [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.