Israeli government freezes seminary funding

WATER cannon, stun grenades and police mounted on horses had to be used against rioting ultra-Orthodox Jews last week. They took to the streets of Israel to protest attempts to draft them into the army

The violent protests came just days after a Supreme Court ruling ordered that funding be halted to seminaries whose students dodge the draft.


Ultra-Orthodox Jews have for years been exempt from military service, which is compulsory for other Jewish Israelis. The arrangement has caused widespread resentment and featured prominently in last year’s election, after which the ultra-Orthodox parties lost ground and found themselves outside the governing coalition.

The new government immediately began pushing a bill that will alter the existing system to gradually reduce the number of exemptions and require all to register for service.

While it awaits parliamentary approval, the  court ruling — followed by Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s freezing of the funds — marked the first concrete sanction against draft dodgers and sparked angry reactions from ultra-Orthodox leaders who claim the military will expose their youth to secularism and undermine their devout lifestyle.

The opposition spilled into the streets last Thursday in the form of about a half-dozen simultaneous demonstrations that snarled traffic for several hours.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said some 400 activists tried to block the entrance to Jerusalem, while demonstrators hurled stones at police and set a patrol car on fire in the southern city of Ashdod. Elsewhere, about 2,000 protesters blocked a major highway in central Israel.


Police on horses beat back demonstrators with clubs and used stun grenades to clear the roads. Two policemen were wounded and 35 protesters were arrested, Rosenfeld said.

The issue of army service is at the core of a cultural war over the place of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israeli society. The ultra-Orthodox, who make up about eight percent of Israel’s eight million citizens, largely have been allowed to skip compulsory military service to pursue their religious studies. Older men often avoid the workforce and collect welfare stipends while continuing to study full time.

The ultra-Orthodox insist their young men serve the nation through prayer and study, thus preserving Jewish learning and heritage, and maintaining a pious way of life that has kept the Jewish people alive through centuries of persecution.

Leaders of the community, which in Hebrew is known as “Haredim,” or those who fear God, say their followers would rather sit in jail than join the military. They charge their ancient brand of Judaism is under siege and warn of an uprising if parliament approves the draft plan.

Yair Sheleg, an expert on the Israeli religious sector at the nonpartisan Israel Democracy Institute, said Thursday’s outburst reflected a genuine rage over the proposed plan but also a show of strength to try to limit its impact.

They understand that things can’t go on the way they have and they will have to make some concessions to the state, but they are hoping to limit the damage. For the first time, they are starting to really be affected.


22 responses to “Israeli government freezes seminary funding”

  1. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    Oh dear, the really religious are going to forced to obey the laws like other folk. How dare the government not give them privilege over and above other folk. Whatever next.

  2. Angela_K says:

    As Harry Hill would say “Is Judaism worse that Islam, only one way to find out: fight”

    “..the military will expose their youth to secularism..” That can only be a good thing and may help the demise of religious fundamentalism.

  3. Broga says:

    They think that can serve by “prayer and study” while living on welfare which is paid by others who may not support them? Prayer to a fantasy God and study of minutiae which is of no practical use. Seems as if their privileged existence, at the expense of others, is taking some heavy blows.

    Their beliefs, of course, are painful, if not destructive, to others such as little girls quietly going to school and women in general whom these odious men seek to dominate.

  4. The man with a sore head because the antics of the pious make me bang it hard against the wall says:

    Does Israel really need these loons in the military? This could go….
    a) Badways ..they may cause mutiny, sabotage equipment, gun down their fellow soldiers in protest. They will do exactly as god tells them.
    b) Very bad ways…they may turn out to be the most dangerous secret weapon in the Israeli arsenal. Absolute fundamental fanatic loons in charge of apocalyptic weapons. Fucking scary if they get trigger happy at the wrong time. Sorry Sir but god told me to massacre that bunch of school kids.
    c) Goodways if they are removed from the gene pool in military action.

  5. Paul Cook says:

    Any one that thinks a god says don’t cut the sides of ‘your’ hair has NO place in society. No matter where that is.

    How do these people actually believe the most unimaginable incredible ‘thing’ the creator of every thing and all they believe is so fantastic in the world or universe would ‘command’ don’t cut the sides of ‘your’ hair.

    I hope they interbreed themselves into extinction. Along with all those of every other religion.

  6. Broga says:

    @Paul Cook: Yuk! Imagine them breeding. What would they be like in bed? Long nightgowns? They don’t take their hats off. I suppose it would be strictly missionary position. In the run of things some of them must be gay. My imagination, disordered by speculation about these men, is running riot.

  7. ian says:

    @Broga: You’re probably closer than you think. The women keep their nightclothes on but there is a hole in an appropriate place!

    And I’m not joking.

  8. Angela_K says:

    @Ian. After reading that it makes the Mormon’s magic underpants seem not so daft.

    Something else to upset both brands of pork dodger:

  9. Dennis says:

    Oxygen thieves.

  10. Barry Duke says:

    …”some of them must be gay”.

    Broga, when I was living close to a Hassidic enclave in north London in the early 80s, I had to nip into a public loo for a pee before catching a tube to work. Waiting outside the toilet was an ultra-Orthodox mum who had around six kids and one in the oven.

    On entering the the subterranean, Victorian toilet, I saw the father in full Hassidic garb, and thought nothing of it until he sidled up next to me, gave me full sight of his erect cock, and reached out in a bid to grope me.

    It was one of the most surreal and unsettling experiences of my life, made worse by the fact that he was ugly enough to frighten a police horse on a foggy night.

  11. Broga says:

    @ian: What boring lives they must lead and far beyond the sexual.

    @Barry Duke: Just another example of the warped instincts, with their occasional covert expression, forced on the devout. Wrapped all around the behaviour is the hypocrisy and the wife must have a miserable life. The look of these men with their hats and beards in unsettling.

  12. Broga says:

    On sexual inhibitions: John Ruskin was said never to have consummated his marriage because on his wedding night he was so shocked to learn that his wife had pubic hair. I did read another time that the story was apocryphal.

  13. charlie says:

    Oh dear me, the ultra religious nuts are going to have to quit being absolute parasites? Oh dear, whatever is the world coming to now?
    As to these clowns rioting, at least nobody ever said Judaism was any “religion of peace”. It IS more like a religion of piece(s). As in they demand a piece of anything they can get their sticky fingers on without a really big fight. Bunch of damn cowards and parasitic asshats.

  14. John C says:

    I hope the first thing they get once drafted is a compulsory haircut.they realy are a bunch of self entitled freaks who deliberatly set themselves aside from everyone by dressing in their lithuanian rooted garb.Then they wonder why they are unpopular with so many people.

  15. Marky Mark says:

    ( he was ugly enough to frighten a police horse on a foggy night.)

    So them there police horses are a bit skiddish in the fog at night…is that what your saying?

    And I thought this article with the picture of a bunch of guys in funny hats and all dressed the same and being pushed around by soldiers was interesting.

  16. oldmanjenkins says:

    They live in a country which requires mandated military service. Don’t like it, go some place else. You might conscientiously object to violence but they apparently are not conscientiously objecting to the freedom they receive from service. Belief in a make-believe entity does not exclude one from service.

  17. Paul Cook says:

    Now these clowns are holding further demo’s about this.
    Do they have special curlers for the side locks or do they grow curly naturally.

  18. barriejohn says:

    Paul Cook: They curl them!

  19. barriejohn says:

    I assume that this isn’t photoshopped, as it looks kosher, so to speak:

    I believe that they curl it as they are not allowed to braid, or plait, their hair.

  20. Broga says:

    Difficult to imagine living with one of these men with their iron clad self regard and their utter conviction that their opinions must be 100 per cent right. Are these the men who squander their lives studying the minutiae of their holy book? And is knowledge of this pointless minutiae their criterion for worth and value to society? They are long overdue for a reality check.

    OT but an amusing comment on someone closer to home who regards himself as very important. I heard a Russian being asked what he thought Putin will feel when he hears that the Earl of Essex (Edward Windsor) had decided that he would not visit Sochi for the Paralympics.

    “He will be devastated”, the man said.