The government should stop funding 54,000 yeshiva students who can no longer claim exemption from military service following the expiration of the Tal Law according to a petition filed Tuesday with the High Court of Justice.
The petition, filed by Hiddush and Free Israel (two nongovernmental organizations promoting religious freedom and equality), the Forum for Equal Service and former MK Ronny Brison (Shinui), argue that the criteria for funding for yeshiva students includes those who are exempt from military service in accordance with the Tal Law. They claim that before the law expired, 54,000 students were eligible to receive government funds, but the legal situation now does not make them eligible for the funds.
The Tal Law, which exempted ultra-Orthodox men from mandatory military service, expired on Aug. 1. Defense Minister Ehud Barak has instructed the Israel Defense Forces to reinstate the last version of the Defense Service Law, from 1968, and to submit, within one month, a practical proposal regarding the implementation of the law in the ultra-Orthodox community. This would serve as a temporary solution until the Knesset legislates a new law that permanently regulates the ultra-Orthodox draft.
Shahar Ilan, vice president of Hiddush, estimates that funding for yeshiva students while the Tal Law was in force, was around 30 million shekels ($7.4 million) per month and 400 million shekels ($99 million) annually. Attorney for the petitioners, Gilad Barnea, wrote in the petition that as the Tal Law has expired, there is no longer a legal basis to exempt the yeshiva students from military service.
Attorney Rabbi Uri Regev, executive director of Hiddush, said the principle must be clear. "Whoever does not serve must and should not receive funds from the state. Any attempt to transfer the funds is a clear violation of the law."