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Israelis march for military service reform

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Israelis march for military service reform


Thousands of Israelis marched in Tel Aviv on Saturday to call on the government to scrap a policy that exempts ultra-Orthodox Jewish men from military service.

Israeli law excuses ultra-Orthodox Jews so they can pursue religious studies.

Protesters say this is unfair and that all Jewish citizens should be treated equally.

“The real problem is 60,000 young Jews don’t share the burden of serving in the army in Israel and this is what it’s all about,” said Ron Ben Ishai, an Israeli war correspondent.

“Now the politicians are surrendering to pressure exerted on them by those politicians – ultra-Orthodox politicians who don’t serve in the army, but they have a say in whether we go to war, or we don’t.”

Most Israeli men begin a two to three year stint of compulsory military service at the age of 18. Arab Israelis are also exempt.

Religious leaders propose another solution: scrap the draft altogether.

Rabbi Israel Eichler, the chairman of United Torah Judaism and a Knesset member, said: “They are taking advantage of the fact that there is compulsory enlistment to raise conflict, hatred and rage among the citizens.

“Our suggestion was to cancel compulsory enlistment to turn the army into a professional security army, like in the United States.”

Israel’s Supreme Court ruled the exemption law illegal in February and gave the government until August 1st to revise it.

But on Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu disbanded the panel that drew up reform proposals under pressure from ultra-Orthodox members of his coalition.

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