Several bereaved parents are expected to attend Saturday night's "IDF suckers' demonstration in Tel Aviv against haredi draft-dodging. Others will support the campaign for universal recruitment from afar.
Nelly Barak of Arad, whose son, Lieutenant Hanan Barak, was killed during the June 2005 border incident in which Gilad Shalit was kidnapped into Gaza, said she supports the army reservists who are organizing the event, though she will not be attending. "Everyone must contribute their fair share to the national effort. This country is not built for parasites," she said.
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The bereaved mother stressed that while she respects yeshiva students, "when our children want to go to the university they first have to serve for three years (in the army. The yeshiva students can also serve three years and then study Torah for the rest of their lives if they so desire.
Parents of fallen IDF soldier Hanan Barak (Photo: Herzl Yosef)
"They should not use the Torah as an excuse. That's unacceptable. Everyone is equal in this country. Why is my son's blood worth less?" Barak said.
Tensions surrounding haredi draft-dodging soared after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dissolved a committee that was tasked with drafting a universal draft law to replace the Tal Law, which effectively exempted ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students from army service.
Barak said she support civil service for Israel's Arabs and haredim. "I don’t think all the Arabs will enlist in the army, but they can perform national service. There are enough schools and clinics out there that could use their help," she argued.
Eli Ben-Shem, who lost his son, 1st Lt. Kobi Ben-Shem, when two military helicopters crashed over the She'ar Yashuv moshav in the Upper Galilee, plans to attend Saturday's rally.
"It pains the bereaved families, who paid a very heavy price for a country that is dear to them, that only half of Israel's citizens serve in the army while the other half does nothing. We expect the PM to come to his senses. There is a historic opportunity here to change the current situation. If the status quo persists, in a few years there no one will join the IDF," he said.
Netanyahu promised equal service, say parents (Photo: Gil Yohanan)Ben-Shem, who heads the Yad Labanim soldiers' memorial organization, said he was very disappointed by Netanyahu's decision to disband the Plesner Committee. "We thought we were on the brink of a historic change in Israel, and now we see it dissipating again due to political interests," he said.
Yaron Baskind's paratrooper son Matan was killed in a car crash. "The message should be simple: Everyone must enlist. There is one army, and that is the Jewish army in the Land of Israel, and everyone must find their place there. Those who don't should not have rights," he told Ynet.
Actor Shlomo Vishinsky, whose son was killed on the Philadelphi Route in south Gaza, will also take part in the demonstration. "There cannot be a situation whereby such a large segment of society does not share the burden. My son Lior was an extreme leftist and served in the most elite IDF unit. He separated his IDF service from his personal political views. He was a true democrat."
"Are the mothers of these haredi draft-dodgers not ashamed? Other mothers do not sleep well at night because they are worried about what may happen to their children in the army."
Ami Schrier of Haifa, whose son First Lieutenant Yiftach Schrier was killed in the Second Lebanon War, says the pace at which the activists are trying to change things is too fast. "You can't a situation that has been created over 64 years in six days.
Schrier said Intrerior Minister Eli Yishai visited the family home during the period of mourning (shiva). "I told him that Yiftach was a secular officer who commanded over Yeshivat Hesder soldiers. I said Shas supporters should follow their example and join the army. He (Yishai) told me her served for three years.
"So far close to 6,000 haredim have enlisted. If we apply more pressure on them, they will close up," Schrier said.
Former Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin, who will be the keynote speaker at the event said: "Suckers aren't those who serve the country, suckers are those who don't understand the true power of the public facing its elected leaders and who allow the leaders to shirk away from finding a solution to the fundamental, ideological and critical issue. Together, all of us will not allow this to happen."
MK Carmel Shama-Hacohen (Likud) will also attend the rally: "The rally tomorrow is one of the most justified we've had. Moments before the Knesset decides between the Tal Law alternatives, it is important that we all understand that this decision is not the Likud's or Kadima's or any other party's - it isn't even a judicial constitutional choice," he stated.
"This rally cannot put on the opposition's uniform, as the solution will only come from the government and the person at its head," Cohen stated.
Attila Somfalvi contributed to the report