"Past experience has taught us that even when the Tal Law expires on August 1, we won't be dragged into the army," a haredi yeshiva student said Thursday.
The Tal Law effectively exempted ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students from army service, and since the High Court of Justice ruled that it would not be extended, the government has been working diligently to devise alternative legislation.
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IDF reservists, supported by several political parties, are demanding a universal draft law, while various haredi elements are looking to preserve the status quo, or at the very least force the government into passing a watered down universal recruitment bill.
"Everyone knows that forcibly recruiting haredim is not possible," said Yitzhak Burstein, who lives in Elad and attends a yeshiva in Bnei Brak. "I'm not going to lie – we are thinking of what the future may hold – but we believe the Torah protects the people of Israel, us included.
"I'm certain that if you interview me at this time next year, we will still be studying," he said. "I'm not changing any of my plans."
Haredim in Jerusalem protest universal draft plan (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Asked if he is not bothered by the fact that most Israelis his age serve in the army, Burstein said, "People like to accuse the haredim of mocking the seculars and soldiers, but we respect them. After all, they protect us. But our studies also have value. It all stems from ignorance and hatred for the ultra-Orthodox."
Burstein's viewpoint represents that of most haredi yeshiva students Ynet spoke to in Bnei Brak, though some were more extreme. "We would rather go to prison (than serve in the army)," declared a haredi who claimed to be a yeshiva student in the central Israeli city.
"When they threatened the parents in Emanuel with jail time they thought it would break their spirits, but it didn’t help," he said. "This whole debate has an anti-Semitic feel to it. If you really want to integrate us into society, stop disparaging us and making up stories that taint our image. We are Jews who study the Torah. This has been revered throughout the generations; only in the State of Israel it is not appreciated."
Another haredi, Yosef Katz (22), is a married father of two from Ashdod: "Can you picture any of these people training for the army? They want us to enlist but they are not setting up any special units for us. How will I go to the army now with two children at home? Who will benefit from it?"
"Even if haredim are eventually recruited, the authorities will quickly find that it is costing the state more, so I'm not concerned," he added.
"The Plesner Committee failed (in drafting a universal recruitment law), and so will the others. It's all in the hands of God."