Ultra-Orthodox Jews Must Now Enter Compulsory Military Service, Israel’s Supreme Court Decides In Historic Ruling

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John Oyewale Contributor
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Israel’s Haredim or ultra-orthodox Jews must be drafted into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), the country’s supreme court unanimously decided Tuesday in a historic ruling, multiple outlets reported.

The court decided that exemptions for the Haredim constituted “invalid selective enforcement, which represents a serious violation of the rule of law, and the principle according to which all individuals are equal before the law,” The Associated Press (AP) reported.

The military could reportedly enlist 3,000 this year amid the ongoing war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The legal resolution ended years of continued judicial extensions and delaying from the government since 2017, when the court struck down the law that, for decades, enshrined exemptions for the Haredi Jews, the outlet noted.

The exemptions have reportedly long angered secular Jews who feel they have been disproportionately bearing the burden of protecting Israel. Government lawyers unsuccessfully tried to persuade the court that its decision would “tear Israeli society apart,” according to the outlet. (RELATED: FACT CHECK: Video Claims To Show Orthodox Jews Leaving Israel To Avoid Conscription)

The new ruling threatens the unity of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s coalition government, which includes politically powerful ultra-orthodox political parties, the AP noted. These parties could desert the coalition, forcing elections, according the outlet.

“The real solution to the draft problem is not a Supreme Court ruling,” Netanyahu’s Likud party reportedly said in a statement on the ruling.

Prominent Haredi leader Yitzhak Goldknopf — head of the United Torah Judaism party as well as Israel’s Construction and Housing Minister— branded the ruling “very unfortunate and disappointing” on X in Hebrew.

Goldknopf had said — at a June event marking the 100th anniversary of the mostly Haredi city of Bnei Brak — that the IDF neither wanted nor needed the Haredim, according to The Times of Israel. He reportedly claimed that the IDF rejected 3,300 of 4,000 Haredim who offered to enlist in the military since the start of 2024.

Haredi Member of the Knesset Israel Eichler warned of the potential risk of “a religious war in the streets and division among Jews,” Haaretz reported.

Meanwhile, centrist politician and Opposition Leader Yair Lapid supported the ruling, The Times of Israel separately reported. Speaking at the annual Herzliya Conference at Tel-Aviv‘s Reichman University, Lapid reportedly condemned the exemptions as “illegal.” He also declared that the days of “shady deals are over” and added that a section of Israeli society could no longer shout, “We will die and not enlist” while others “die because they did enlist,” according to the outlet.

“The Torah is not an excuse for evasion and the Talmud is not an excuse for refusal,” he reportedly said in part.

Not following the ruling was tantamount to a “betrayal of the IDF soldiers” and reservists, he added.

Israel’s Haredim currently number 1.29 million, or 12.9% of Israel’s population — up by 509% from about 212,000 in 1979, according to i24News.