Netanyahu and Lieberman
are threatening to head to the polls
early over the enlistment
of yeshiva students, the haredim declare it "will never be allowed to happen" and experts disagree over whether national service – military or civil – of the majority of the haredi sector is even a realistic scenario in the foreseeable future.
Researcher of haredi society, sociologist Dr Nissim Leon (Bar Ilan University) is convinced that the State would be able to enlist the majority of haredi yeshiva students through legislation, even if there is no rabbinical approval of the move.
"There might be a few demonstrations, but eventually it would happen," he says adding "ultimately it mainly depends on the government's decision."
Dr. Leon explained that we are in a time "between dusk and twilight" vis a vis strength, authority and influence of haredi leaders and this opens a window of opportunity for far reaching social change on matters like these especially if the chosen model for haredi enlistment will not be sweeping and will take the existence of a "scholarly elite" into consideration.
"The possibility of formulating a new contract between haredim and Israeli society exists," Leon explained. It comes from the grassroots and I don't think that there is a leadership model today that could stop it."
He added that "breaking the employment barrier" over the last few years has contributed to this as the integration process has already begun and "now we just need to take it to the next level."
Of course, Leon clarifies, there will be a counter response which he stresses would strengthen the fundamentalist approach and would offer militant rabbis the chance to take center stage. The process is not a calm one, there will be demonstrations and casualties but eventually, after a few years, it will go ahead.
Nissim believes this will make haredi society more committed to the State and will offer them the privilege of taking part in shaping the State's character.
In contrast to Dr. Leon, Dr. Shlomo Tikochinski (Van-Leer Jerusalem Institute) a researcher of haredi yeshivas and society is convinced that those who choose to go "head to head" will get "head to head" in return.
"It is completely clear that any attempt to forcefully conscript the haredim would be a foolish act that would only take is 50 years back," said Dr. Tikochinski.
He believes that the State should adopt the proposal presented by former IDF manpower chief Brigadier General (Res.) Elazar Stern by which the yeshiva students are given a complete and sweeping exemption from IDF service for a period of 10 years.
This, he thinks will lead to a generation of haredim who select their path from several options: military, academic and employment – "softly softly one by one," and will not turn the yeshiva into a hideaway.
"It's true that in politics it's a difficult concept, because political thought is short term and it stands in fear of the Supreme Court, but legislation against haredim will only destroy, and enforcing the law by force would only destroy more."
And what of the principle of equality? Tikochinski says that "while it is true that this is problematic from a judicial standpoint, yet if you want a healthy solidary society and not scheming and cat and mouse games – there is no choice but to go for this (option)."
Tikochinski is not concerned over the possibility that rabbis would stand in the way of yeshiva students who wish to leave the yeshiva world and explains: "When there is a gate the rabbis stand by and guard it so that no one can leave, but when the walls fall down and there are no gates – they have no where to stand guard."