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Israel’s Supreme Court orders conscription for ultra-Orthodox men | News

Israel’s Supreme Court orders conscription for ultra-Orthodox men | News

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The ruling risks the further destabilisation of Israel’s government, with key religiously conservative parties opposed.

Israel’s Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that the military must begin drafting ultra-Orthodox men for military service.

The ruling announced on Tuesday seeks to overturn a longstanding practice under which Jewish seminary students are exempt from conscription. The decision threatens to help destabilise the government, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition reliant on religiously conservative parties that oppose the move.

The court said that in the absence of a law that distinguishes between Jewish seminary students and other draftees, Israel’s compulsory military service system applies to ultra-Orthodox men like any other citizen.

Under longstanding arrangements, ultra-Orthodox men have been exempt from the draft. However, the court found that the state was carrying out “invalid selective enforcement”.

That “represents a serious violation of the rule of law, and the principle according to which all individuals are equal before the law,” the ruling read.

“At the height of a difficult war, the burden of inequality is more than ever acute,” it continued.

The court did not say how many ultra-Orthodox men should be drafted.

‘Tear society apart’

The exemption of ultra-Orthodox men has long been a source of anger among the secular public. That divide has widened during the eight-month-old war in Gaza.

The military has called up tens of thousands of soldiers and says it needs all the manpower it can get. Casualties continue to mount, with the number of soldiers reported killed exceeding 600.

However, despite calling for the war to be expanded, the politically powerful ultra-Orthodox parties that are key partners in Netanyahu’s governing coalition oppose any change in the current system.

That has led to suggestions that the end of the exemptions could jolt the coalition, and even cause the government to collapse.

During arguments in the court, government lawyers claimed that forcing ultra-Orthodox men to enlist would “tear Israeli society apart”.

In a post on the social media platform X, cabinet minister Yitzhak Goldknopf, who heads one of the ultra-Orthodox parties in the coalition, called the ruling “very unfortunate and disappointing.”

He did not say whether his party would leave the government.


Ultra-Orthodox men attend special seminaries that focus on religious studies, with little attention on secular topics, including maths, science and English. Critics claim that they are ill-prepared to serve in the military or enter the secular workforce.

With its high birthrate, the ultra-Orthodox community is the fastest-growing segment of the population, at about 4 percent annually.

Each year, roughly 13,000 ultra-Orthodox males reach the conscription age of 18, but fewer than 10 percent enlist, according to the Israeli parliament’s State Control Committee.

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