Regev Responds

Hiddush in the legal trenches

Pushing the wheels of justice to keep on turning

As the legal scene in Israel heats up, mostly characterized by uncertainty as to what's next, and when it will finally settle down, Hiddush continues to actively pursue its legal advocacy. While encouraged by indications regarding both public opinion and commitments to religious freedom and equality voiced by some by key parties, legal advocacy remains a necessary and effective avenue to advance Hiddush's mission, even as the wheels of justice turn ever so slowly.

Advocacy by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock ImagesAdvocacy by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images

Last week, we received a formal response from the IDF regarding our challenge to them (representing both Hiddush and the Secular Forum) on the matter of family visitations to IDF bases on Saturdays when their children are required to remain on base for consecutive weekends (see more details below). The IDF informed us that they are reassessing the policy and committed to complete this process in two months. Clearly this would not have occurred without our repeated demands and the fact that we have started litigation against the military. We intend to pursue the matter diligently, for both we and the Secular Forum have heard from scores of families who have encountered this new policy. In new Israeli slang, this falls under the category of "religionization", in the context of the political climate, which is so impacted by the ultra-Orthodox and "recruitment-minded" Zionist Orthodox.

For quite some time now, we have been pursuing a challenge to the dual function of an ultra-Orthodox Sephardic rabbi who serves as both the executive director of the Shas political party as well as its large state-funded school network. This matter is of even greater importance and severity during this period of repeated elections, for the schools and their large staffs are epxected to campaign for the success of the party. Last week, we received yet another response that the matter is being looked at by both the Attorney General and the Ministry of Education. However, given the protracted period since we first challenged this egregious breach, we have now informed the AG's office that if a resolution is not reached by January 1, 2020, Hiddush will petition the Supreme Court for the necessary remedies.

Also happening these days is the preparation of further legal motions regarding the Ministry of Defense's and the IDF's refusal to disclose complete information regarding the current and past draft levels of yeshiva students. Last week they finally abided by the legal requirement to respond to our FOIA request, their response had more holes than data. This was another reminder of the importance of perserverence and consistency on the part of legal advocacy organizations when confronting governmental bureaucracies, which are reluctant to expose themselves to review and doubly so in regard to politically explosive issues (like the drafting of yeshiva students).

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