Keeping It Kosher


The Supreme Court session that wasn't

The wait to litigate on the petitions to throw out the Tal law has lasted a year and a half.

Stretcher protest by the Forum for Mandatory ServiceStretcher protest by the Forum for Mandatory Service

The wait to litigate on the petitions to throw out the Tal law has lasted a year and a half. And then the Egyptian intifada comes along and the session disappeared into almost complete media silence. The attorney general’s representative was forced to help. The bottom line: the country was asked to answer whether it would agree to freeze the Gabbai reform for 15 months until the verdict. On Sunday morning the Supreme Court convened to discuss throwing out the Tal law. The country has been waiting 15 months for this session. The government appointed the Gabbai commission and accepted its decisions leading up to this session. It thought that these decisions would lead to mass army recruitment for the Haredim. The public had the impression for some reason that it would lead to the granting of a comprehensive exemption from military service for the Haredim. Leading up to the session, the Plasner commission in the Knesset published a report which concluded that the implementation of the Tal law had failed. 60 organizations staged stretcher protests in favor of mandatory military service before the session.

Did it really happen or not? And then come those pesky Egyptians, who, although they have a strong leader, insist that what they really need is democracy, and bread, and work, and stole the entire media agenda. And from the viewpoint of the public at least, it was as if the Supreme Court session had never occurred. Yesterday I found only one news item on the session in News1. So it was that one story took over the news agenda.

The Supreme Court Question. And it wasn't as though it wasn't interesting. There was some important data, important questions were asked – and most important was that the Supreme Court asked the government if it was ready to freeze the Gabbai reform, which grants a comprehensive exemption from military service to Yeshiva boys from the age of 22, until the verdict. Because, as judge Hanan Meltzer explains, there is a series of clauses in the reform which only exacerbate the problem of inequality produced by the Tal law.

On the southern border. Nevertheless, we can't get along without the Egyptian angle. One of the petitioners, chairman of the Quality in Government Movement attorney Eliad Shraga, observed that "events of the last several days remind us all that Israel needs a strong army".

Justice? Not in our school. And this is what state representative Osnat Mandel, says about the Tal Law: "The Tal law is a wise law, not a just law. Anyone looking for justice will apparently get no reply". Which begs the question: when is it that a law which is so unjust ceases to be wise?

Are they serious? Recently, Chairperson Dorit Beinish criticized the government. She said about the government's recruitment goals for 2015: "You always talk about 2015. The question is what has been happening over the last several years? You had 15 months. What happened between then and now? The question is limited to the changes which have begun. Did you stand firm, or not"? Concerning the reform to the Tal law, she said: "The decision is effective starting January 9th. After a bill waits so much time they make a decision the night before the session. Are they serious?"

Sectarian army. On the other hand, Beinish is also far from being an admirer of the various Haredi military service compromises. Osnat Mandel said that in Magen David Adom they added a separate room for Haredi volunteers, for men only and without television. "What kind of an army do we want to end up with?" asks the representative, "one divided into sectors? The creation of a sectarian army in which there will be no girls and no television? I've never heard of units like that. It's a bit frightening on the face of it."

The Center for the Encouragement of Small Business. The government's plan took punches from every direction. Shraga described it as "science fiction". Meretz attorney Uri Kidar said that it was no accident that "the government speaks about 2015 recruitment goals and not about values. Goals are something you can be optimistic about. What we need is an optimistic scenario and pessimistic one. This plan could never have survived as a business plan at the Center for the Encouragement of Small Business"

The government's babysitter. The Knesset's legal counsel, attorney Ayal Yanun was particularly frank when he explained to the judges how things really work in the world outside the courtroom: "The problem is not with the Tal law but rather with the government dragging its feet. Unfortunately, we know that procedures in the government frequently take a long time. Sometimes what we do in the courtroom influences the government. Many times, how matters progress is up to the court. We have to admit the unfortunate truth that were it not for the bill, we would be in another extremely bad place." What does Yanun recommend to the court? "It is a question of pressuring the government". "We take no pleasure

it was as if the Supreme Court session had never occurred.

in being the government's babysitter", said Judge Elyakim Rubinstein.

National service in yeshivas. The head of the National Service Administration, minister Shalom Jerbi, said that the organization Zihui Korbanut Asson (Identification of Disaster Victims) asked that it be allowed to deploy personnel in the national service framework. What does this mean? The boys will remain in yeshiva and in the event they are needed, will be called up using a beeper. Why didn't we think of this before? For example, at age 18, high school students could continue directly to university and in the event they are needed, be called up for military activities. On the one hand, the possibility arises from this story that Yehuda Meshi Zahav thinks that we are completely stupid. On the other hand, who knows us better than Yehuda Meshi Zahav?

The Rasler solution. For decades, attorney Yehuda Rasler has petitioned again and again against the military service deferment agreement for Yeshiva students. The rulings keep coming, and tend to be in his favor, but reality is going against him. "What result would be satisfactory to the gentleman?", asks judge Elyakim Rubinstein. 5000 yeshiva students will remain in yeshivas, Rasler recommends, and the others will all do the army. Attorney Iti Ben Horin, one of the petitioners, volunteered his own answer: Every 18 year old will go to the recruitment center and there they will determine who does military service and who does civilian national service.

Caution! Numbers ahead! One of the great advantages of petitions to the Supreme Court is that a great deal of data is clarified, revealed and updated which in general the state does not clarify, reveal or update. This is a mystery of concern to those who understand the Tal law (which is only about 10 people in the entire country). How is that at age 18, 7,700 men receive military service deferments as Yeshiva students, but according to the state's data there are only 5400 new participants in the military service deferral agreement each year? The answer is that the figure of 5400 is "of use in the recruitment cycle". What happens when the recruitment cycle is all used up? How many really dodge the draft?

State Attorney General representative Osnat Mandel explains: 1000 are registered in the Hesder yeshiva framework (and they aren't really relevant to this matter). 900 receive a full exemption due to physical or psychological profile or lack of suitability, and 400 join the Netsah Yehuda regiment. Which means that the real number of Haredim receiving a military service deferral is not 5400, but 6700 and so we aren't talking about 13% of potential yearly recruits, but rather 16%. Some of them merely change to profile 21 (unfit for military service) and a smaller number are drafted.

One serves, the other doesn't. Eliad Shraga claims that after the Tal law was passed in 2002, those serving in the army were still the majority of potential recruits, 54%. Today, they are a minority in need of defense. This figure includes men, women, Haredim and Arabs, i.e. all boys and girls aged 18 in Israel, and it takes into account only military service and not civilian national service. Amir Rogovsky, head of the Planning Division and of Human Resources in the IDF, was called by the judges in order to testify as to whether this was true. Rogovsky said that the situation now was evenly balanced – 50% of potential recruits were drafted in 2010, 50% were not. Among Jews (men and women) the proportion is two thirds to one third, 67% were drafted, a third were not. And among Jewish males only? Three quarters to one quarter. 75% were drafted, 25% were not, among whom more than half (13% of potential recruits) registered at yeshivas. You have to say one good thing for draft-dodging: How nice and considerate of the data in this case to come together in such a way that it's easy to remember.

Parliamentary moment. Disclosure: The writer of these lines is one of the two experts who accompany the Plasner team in its work, together with the founder of the Netsah Yehuda regiment, and Yehuda Duvdevani, a brigadier general in the reserves. The Knesset's legal counsel has two tasks, one is to legislate and the other is to supervise the implementation authorities. Generally she legislates far too much and supervises far too little. The Plasner team created a model for inspection. For a year and half it hasn't left in peace those who are supposed to implement the Tal law. This model should be copied. Every committee in the Knesset needs to choose a law or two and set up teams to supervise their implementation. For example, let Dov Hanin make sure that the Green Revolution laws are actually enforced. Let Shelly Yahimovich head a committee which would supervise the Hesder laws. Give Aryeh Eldad a committee which will supervise the organ transplant law. It would be fascinating.

No exemptions, no deferrals, no petitions. The kashrut inspector sends blog updates to anyone who requests them. Write to:

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