Trading Hats for Helmets

Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Jews are now being drafted for military service.

by John McNeil

This summer, the Israeli government began drafting ultra-orthodox Haredim for military service. Since the founding of Israel in 1948, the Haredim have been extended legal privileges, including an exemption from military service, which is mandatory for all other Jewish Israelis. But a February 2012 ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court held that the exemption was unconstitutional, noting the economic and social burdens of the exemption as well, and required that Haredim be drafted into military service along with secular Jews no later than August 1.

The Haredim, members of the ultra-Orthodox movement within Judaism who pledge that their sole occupation will be the study of the Torah, comprised a small percentage of the population when the state of Israel was created. But now, over 60 years later, the Haredim are the fastest-growing portion of the population, constituting 26 percent of the total number of Jewish children entering primary school.

A March 2012 report from the U.S. Library of Congress shows the number of Haredim exempted from military duty has …

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