Israeli defence ministry begins drafting Charedi Yeshiva students

Full-time Torah study is no longer officially recognised as a basis for not enlisting in the IDF


Ultra-Orthodox Jewish youths block a road in Bnei Brak as they protest against their conscription into the IDF, April 1, 2024 (Credit: OREN ZIV/AFP via Getty Images)

Ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students have begun being called up to serve in the Israeli army following the expiration of a temporary directive which instructed conscription authorities to not draft Haredim.

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara on Sunday reportedly told the legal advisers of both the defence and education ministries that the drafting of individuals in the ultra-Orthodox community into the army must begin the next day.

He wrote in a letter first published by Channel 13 news that beginning from 1 April, “there will be no source of authority for a blanket exemption from military conscription for yeshiva students, and the defence establishment must act to draft them into military service in accordance with the law.”

Some yeshiva students who previously were issued deferments from service have now reportedly been sent an order, known in Hebrew as Tzar Rishon, to report for the pre-draft assessment.

It is estimated that some 63,000 students are currently enrolled in yeshivas and theoretically now legally subject to the draft.

The current government arrangement that allowed an exemption came into existence under David Ben Gurion around the time of the establishment of the state of Israel to exempt some 400 senior yeshiva students from temporarily serving in the army so long as their sole occupation was studying the Torah.

Over the years, as the Israeli population grew, the number of Charedi men eligible for the exemption under the arrangement grew significantly, from an estimated 800 men in 1968 to over 41,000 in 2005, becoming a contentious political issue in the country.

Hundreds of Strictly Orthodox protesters have for several weeks been attempting to disrupt daily life in the country to protest the expiration of the law. 

Many belonging to the extremist group Jerusalem Faction blocked a major highway in Israel outside the city of Bnei Brak on Monday during a demonstration against mandatory conscription, with police arresting at least six people. They held signs that read “To jail and not the army” and “Stalin/Russia is here”, and “We will die rather than draft”.

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