Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Letter from Jerusalem: Israel's Supreme Court Decision Prompts New Haredi Discussion

As Israel’s Supreme Court overturned the “Tal Law” last week, yet another controversy erupted in the country surrounding relations between Israel’s ultra-Orthodox (“haredi”) community, and the rest of society.
The Tal Law, which has exempted religious Jews who participate in full-time Jewish learning from serving in the army since 2002, was this week ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court. The law cannot be renewed when it expires in a few months. Israel now has the opportunity to revisit military or national service requirements for those who were formerly exempt by the Tal Law, creating vibrant debate in the Knesset and wider society.

Most pundits assume that the growing dissatisfaction surrounding the special treatment of this population, combined with this week’s Supreme Court ruling, will force leadership of the ultra-Orthodox population to make significant concessions. Ultra-Orthodox leadership also faces pressure from some in their own community, who have begun to develop economic independence through successful integration into the workforce. This group is paving the way for many who are dealing with significant economic challenges.
Learn more about the changes happening in the haredi community and the evolving relationship between Israel and its ultra-Orthodox population.

The Tal Law changes add to a flood of headlines grabbing the attention of the North American Jewish community. While ongoing security concerns remain critical in Israel, increasing fragmentation in civil society is one of the greatest threats to the country’s existence. As such, JFNA’s Israel Office has provided analysis, reported on key events, and represented Federation interests to political and communal leaders in Israel.

During the spike of activity in Beit Shemesh, Jerry Silverman, JFNA’s president and CEO, joined JFNA Israel office staff and members of the Washington, D.C. Federation community (partnered with Beit Shemesh) in a series of meetings and field visits with key players. The visit demonstrated the deep concern felt by the North American Jewish community around these societal problems and reiterated the strength of North American Jewry’s connection to Israel. 
JFNA’s senior leadership met with Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu this week, where they again raised this topic, expressing the deep level of concern among North American Jewry.
In addition, JFNA’s recent Board of Trustees meeting in Florida focused on how some of these civil society challenges are impacting relations with the North American Jewish community. JFNA lay leaders and professionals were also involved in a session on “Haredim and the Jewish Collective,” hosted by the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Makom at its February Board of Governors meeting in Israel.

These issues remain high on JFNA’s agenda, and we are working with Federations to determine how best to promote our ideals of equality and pluralism through activities and programs across Israel. JFNA has released several statements and sent various updates to Federations on this subject, and offers a resource page with more details, relevant links and updates.

via JFNA


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