Regev Responds

Girls need not return to school? Yeshiva students need not be drafted?

On the legal front

Hiddush's activism in the legal arena has continued in the face of the Covid-19 crisis, as Israel's new government has been settling in. There will be much to do in the face of the ultra-Orthodox party's stranglehold over Israel's religion-and-state arena!

Two ultra-Orthodox girls; source: WikipediaTwo ultra-Orthodox girls; source: Wikipedia


Much has been written about the ultra-Orthodox sector and its response to the Corona crisis. One disturbing phenomena was that when some relaxation of the closure orders was allowed regarding Israeli schools, the ultra-Orthodox rabbinic leadership instructed that schools for boys would reopen - but not for girls - because Torah learning takes priority and it is required and offered to boys, not girls.

Hiddush immediately challenged this blatant gender discrimination and sent a legal demand to the municipality and the Attorney General, on behalf of Hiddush and a number of additional organizations, such as the Israel Women Network and the Rackman Center for the Advancement of Women's Status at Bar Ilan University, asking that this discriminatory policy be stopped immediately. This follows on legal work Hiddush is pursuing to eliminate the exclusion of women in Israeli society on the basis of religious discriminatory attitudes and promoting the full equality of status to which women are entitled.

Deputy Attorney General, Dina Zilber, responded promptly to our demand and instructed the Jerusalem Municipality and the Ministry of Education to ensure that they act in a manner, which ensures equality in all their actions, and avoid discrimination based upon gender or sector.



Parallel to the political and legal collision course, which is about to crash shortly, while the Knesset attempts to pass a law for the drafting of yeshiva students into the IDF, Hiddush took another step in its ongoing work to advance equality in shouldering the civic burden. For quite some years now amendments to the Security Service Law have masqueraded as being aimed at advancing equality in the service, while in practice have been intended to ensure the non-drafting of yeshiva students, enabling them to dodge the duty that is binding on all the rest of Israel’s Jewish population.

Hiddush is one of the active organizations that fights against the draft dodging of tens of thousands of yeshiva students, which is made possible by political deals and by Israeli governments (on the left, center, and right) buying the votes of the ultra-Orthodox parties, contrary to the will of the public and the principle of civic equality.

As expected, the Ministry of Defense and the IDF refused to disclose the data, analysis, and documentation that the committee, which drafted the amendment to be voted on in the Knesset, based its recommendations upon.

One of the areas in which we operate is under the Freedom of Information Act, demanding the disclosure of relevant information and documentation that the draft policy relies upon. We believe the review of this information is essential to assess the policy in the face of obfuscation and misleading data that is meant to divert public and legal criticism of systematic preferential treatment for the Haredi sector, while falsely creating the impression that this phenomenon is decreasing.

As expected, the Ministry of Defense and the IDF refused to disclose the data, analysis, and documentation that the committee, which drafted the amendment to be voted on in the Knesset, based its recommendations upon. Our demands take on special importance and urgency as another review team appointed by the IDF Chief of Staff confirmed that for years the data collected and reported to the Knesset and Government by the IDF regarding the drafting of Haredi soldiers has been fabricated, misreported, and generally unreliable, in an attempt to create the impression that many more Haredi soldiers have been drafted than in reality. In the course of doing so, criteria defining Haredi that is not allowed under the law were used, so that non-Haredi recruits were reported as Haredi, databases of the IDF and the Ministry of Education were not compared in order to avoid exposure of major discrepancies, no real oversight was exercised, and more.

We have demanded that the data that was presented to the committee be disclosed, for its recommendations and the Bill were based upon these false numbers. Not surprisingly, the state refused to disclose these data and opinions on the grounds that this is "informal" data, and that their exposure may impair the ability of government agencies to hold open and honest consultations on the way to formulating policy.

It is extremely disturbing to what extent the State ignores the Court rulings on freedom of information and doesn't shy away from citing rulings in a distorted and partial manner, presenting them as establishing the opposite legal rules than they do in reality.

Last week we appeared in court to make argue our case, but at the last minute the judge announced that she is disqualifying herself from hearing the case because the senior officer in charge, who signed the IDF affidavit in the case is an old family friend of hers. It is unfortunate that she didn’t announce this earlier, before the parties came to court. Now, Hiddush has requested that the Judge who will take over the case hold the hearing as soon as possible, given the importance and urgency of the subject.

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