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Israel to begin drafting ultra-Orthodox Jews

The defense minister has approved conscripting members of the community starting next month, according to reports

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has approved a plan to begin drafting ultra-Orthodox Jews into the armed forces starting next month, the Defense Ministry has said, as cited by local media. Until now, members of the religious community have been exempted from IDF service.

The announcement comes two weeks after a landmark decision by the country’s top court on June 25 that there is no legal basis for not conscripting ultra-Orthodox Jews, who have largely not been drafted since the foundation of Israel in 1948.

The authorization reportedly followed an assessment meeting on Tuesday with the military’s chief of staff, Herzi Halevi, and other officials. Following discussions, Gallant approved the process of issuing draft notices to ultra-Orthodox Jews over the coming month, reports say.

The step is being implemented “in accordance with the [IDF’s] absorption and screening capabilities, and after a significant process of refining the existing data regarding potential recruits,” according to the statement, as quoted by the media.

Last month, the High Court of Justice not only invalidated the waiver granted to ultra-Orthodox Jews 76 years ago, but also ordered Israeli authorities to halt funding for religious schools, or yeshivas, whose students avoid the draft.

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Israel’s top court rules ultra-Orthodox Jews must be drafted

The judgement came amid a growing feeling of irritation from secular Israelis as the war in Gaza stretches into its tenth month and Israel faces a manpower shortage. Earlier this month, Gallant said that the country’s army needed some 10,000 new soldiers.

In Israel, military service is obligatory for most citizens – men and women – who commonly begin serving at the age of 18. Israelis must spend 24-32 months in the IDF.

The Israeli government launched a large-scale military operation in Gaza in October, shortly after a cross-border incursion by Hamas in which at least 1,200 people were killed and 250 taken captive. Around 116 hostages are still believed to be held in Gaza.

The hostilities have claimed over 38,000 lives, while over 87,000 people have been wounded in Israeli attacks on the Palestinian enclave, according to Gaza’s health authorities.

The death toll among Israeli troops since the launch of the operation stands at 325, and at 681 on all fronts since the Hamas-led incursion, according to official data.

 

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