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Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem to Protest Against Amended Draft Law

The Eidah Chareidis Rabbinical Court of Jerusalem, in conjunction with the Satmar communities in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak and Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, has called a demonstration in the streets of Jerusalem on Tuesday, December 22 at 7:30 PM, in protest against the amendment to the draft law passed in the Knesset in November 2015.

Protesters will assemble in Shabbos Square, and then march up Malchei Yisroel Street in the Geulah neighborhood.

The original draft law, passed in March 2014, called for the conscription of Orthodox Jewish boys into the Israeli army, but allowed for a three-year adjustment period during which enlistment will not be obligatory. The amendment, passed with the cooperation of the UTJ religious party, extends the adjustment period to eight years and grants the Defense Minister the power to continue to exempt Orthodox Jews after that point, even if quotas are not met.

The protesters are opposed to the law because it agrees in principle to the drafting of boys, and may lead in the future to an actual forced draft.

The subject of forced conscription has become an issue around which Orthodox Jews from various communities have rallied over the past two year as these new draft bills were passed.

The Orthodox community in the Holy Land predates Zionism, and many of the Orthodox there today are descendents of these Jews who came to Jerusalem to live a life of peaceful study and service of G-d. The Jewish community lived in peace alongside the Arabs and had no desire to dominate the land or create a sovereign state.

The State of Israel, created in 1948, established a compulsory draft. Through negotiation, a compromise was reached allowing the Orthodox an exemption because of their ongoing study in a yeshiva, a Torah academy. But in 2014, the Israeli government overturned the status quo and passed legislation they hoped would eventually lead to full Orthodox participation in the army.

“The Orthodox community in the Holy Land views the Israeli government’s plan to draft them as a direct attack on their freedom of religion,” said Yirmiyahu Cohen, a spokesman for True Torah Jews, a New York-based organization that has been at the forefront of the battle against conscription for several years. “According to the Torah, G-d commanded the Jewish people in this era not to fight any wars against other nations. The current Israeli government plans to force the Orthodox to violate their conscience and principles. They should be exempt just like the Israeli Arabs, whom the Israelis do not expect to fight against their Arab brethren.

“Some argue that the Orthodox must share the burden because they too are being protected by the Israeli army. But the truth is that they were living there a hundred years before the Zionist movement even began. The Orthodox community lived peacefully alongside the Arabs in the 1800s. It was Zionism that gave rise to the current conflict, so they should not expect the Orthodox to help them deal with the problem they created.

“Even deferring the implementation of the law by a number of years is unacceptable, because we have to come out openly and proudly show our resistance to the draft. We have to publicize the true reason for our refusal to participate.”