Will drafting Ultra-Orthodox Jews solve Israel’s military malaise?

August 9, 2012

Sally Fitz

Military service is compulsory in Israel, but an increasing number of Israeli youth are avoiding conscription. The latest figures show about 25 percent of Israel’s eligible youth don’t serve. The biggest percentage of is made up of ultra-orthodox Jews, who traditionally have been exempted from serving.

With the military’s numbers decreasing, the issue of avoiding the draft has become a hotly debated issue. Israel’s Military could soon have more ultra-orthodox in its ranks.

Polls show that 70 pecent of the Israeli public believe the ultra-orthodox should serve in the Israeli Defense Force.  Added to that, on August 1st the TAL law that effectively exempted the ultra-orthodox from military service expired. There’s a clamor to begin conscripting them immediately. The issue is pending before the Israeli Supreme Court.

When Israel was first formed, the ultra-orthodox were exempted from military service. At that time, it meant several hundred were exempted. Today, thousands of ultra-orthodox  are exempted from serving in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) each year.

Yaakov Katz, a military and defense analyst, says studies indicate by the year 2020, about 50 percent of the eligible Israeli population will not be serving in the military if current trends continue. He says “a big percentage of that 50 percent will be ultra-orthodox, because of their increasing birth rate.”

Thursday on Worldview:

Jerome McDonnell talks to Yaakov Katz, who is the military affairs and defense correspondent for The Jerusalem Post about the changes facing Israel regarding who serves in its military and who doesn’t. Katz is also the Israel correspondent for Jane’s Defence Weekly, the international military magazine. Katz grew up in Chicago and moved to Israel in 1993 where he lives with his wife and three daughters.