A group of young haredi [ultra-Orthodox] men who do voluntary civil service have called on the government not to force their cohorts to enlist, arguing that great changes are afoot in the haredi community.
Israel Hayom received a letter from Sar-Shalom Jerbi, director-general of the National Civilian Service Administration, signed by 20 yeshiva students. The letter stated that: "Recently, there have been many voices calling for forced haredi service. We hope this intention can be halted."
"Civil service part of a new phase in the real and deep changes taking place in haredi society in recent years, despite and perhaps because of the fact that it is voluntary and not required. We believe that it isn't possible to help the elderly, children and the needy out of coercion. Such activities must come from a place of understanding and willingness."
The yeshiva students who signed the letter believe that forcing people to serve is likely to bring about the opposite. "Even those who may wish to serve may be deterred from doing so, and this plays into the hands of extremists who oppose any type of contribution."
At the same time, they do recognize that the process of change in the haredi community is a long and slow one. "We understand that integrating [haredim] into service will make it easier in the future for us to complete higher education and find a profession. But it must be done gradually and without threatening the continued study of holy subjects."
"Politicians need to understand that they cannot obligate a person to do good," Yohanan Drin, one of the signatories of the letter told Israel Hayom on Tuesday. "It needs to come from within. We are people who serve out of willingness."
"Haredim are publicly saying that change is happening when once they were fearful," Jerbi told Israel Hayom. "In our opinion, civil service needs to be volunteer-based, and that is how I presented the situation to Science and Technology Minister [Daniel] Hershkowitz, the prime minister and the Plesner committee."
Jerbi emphasized that the numbers speak for themselves: "We have seen significant growth in the number of volunteers from the haredi and Arab sectors. We have to remember that for 64 years there was no sharing of the burden. Finally there is a movement in the haredi sector to leave the yeshiva and contribute to the country."
Meanwhile, the National Student Union has joined the struggle to share the burden, deciding to officially join the list of social organizations involved in the social protests. The union will participate, for example, in the protest slated for this Saturday at the Tel Aviv Museum, titled "Emergency draft: On Saturday we stop being suckers."
"The prime minister decided to be consistent in his non-compliance with his obligations to the public," said National Student Union Chairman Itzik Shmuli, "first in the social sphere and now with respect to equal sharing of the burden. By dispersing the Plesner committee, Netanyahu chose to give up on soldiers, young people, students, immigrants, people in periphery areas of the country, taxpayers and reservists. The age of these dirty deals has ended."
At a press conference on Tuesday in the "Camp of Suckers" tent near the Arlozorov Bus Terminal in Tel Aviv, Shmuli added, "You will see students take to the streets if the government continues not to uphold its obligations with respect to the public time and time again, whether dealing with the socio-economic sphere or equal sharing of the burden."
On Monday, a demonstration was held outside Netanyahu's house in Jerusalem. A protest is slated for this coming Saturday at the Tel Aviv Museum. Protest organizers have also indicated their intention to march from Bnei Barak to Jerusalem on Thursday.
Politicians' visits to the "Camp of Suckers" tent also continued on Tuesday. Vice Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz's chief of staff MK Avi Duan visited the protesters. "If the Tal Law passes without sanctions," he said, "and Kadima does not abandon the coalition, I will consider quitting the Knesset."