Dozens of activists of all sides of the political spectrum gathered near the house of Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Tel Aviv on Friday and demonstrated against draft dodging and in favor of equal share of the burden.
The protest marks a decade since the establishment of the committee which legislated the Tal Law exempting ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students from army service on religious grounds.
During the protest, members of the Forum for Promotion of Equal Share in the Burden presented data suggesting that since the implementation of the law, the number of IDF service exemptions has risen considerably - from 30,000 in 2000 to 60,000 in 2010 (14% of youths eligible for enlistment).
The forum warned that should the trend continue, some 110,000 people will be exempted from service on religious grounds – a quarter of youths eligible for enlistment - by 2020.
The protestors carried signs reading: "Silent majority awakens" and "Defense minister is scared."
They called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak to promote equal enlistment. One sign showed a divided portrait of Barak and late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin with a caption reading "I shall not keep quiet as my country has changed its face."
'Tal Law has failed'
"We came to protest the disgrace called the Tal Law, which has served as a cover for draft-dodging for a decade," MK Horowitz told Ynet. He stressed that the law had failed: "The haredim don't enlist in the army and the extent of exemptions based on the 'Torah is his profession' argument is reaching thousands. It's blatant discrimination between the citizens of the state.
"There are citizens which carry this very heavy burden of both active and reserve service. It's not the way of a Jewish, democratic and Zionist state. There are people here with a variety of outlooks and we are all united in one cause: Everyone should enlist in military or national service."
Miri Baron, chairman of the Forum for the Promotion of Equal Share in the Burden, who also organized the demonstration said, "Barak promised us a decade ago 'one people, one enlistment' and it's time for him to keep that promise. The youngsters who came to protest today know that if they don't serve we won't have a country. Discrimination is so plain to see but the defense minister doesn't care."
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