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This Hiddush headline from this past week was a pleasant surprise given the fact that in recent years the ultra-Orthodox political parties have grown in political influence and successfully kept their yeshiva students out of the Israeli Defense Forces while also directing millions of Israel shekels to their synagogues and yeshivot, moneys that no other community receives. The headline suggests that there is a return to fairness for all Israeli citizens regarding mandatory military service on the one hand, and the appropriate use of tax-payer shekels for all Israeli citizens on the other.

Hiddush is an organization committed to the separation of Church and State in Israel and to freedom of worship and conscience as guaranteed in Israel’s Declaration of Independence.

The following excerpts explaining this High Court ruling are taken from Hiddush’s announcement (for the entire story, see http://www.hiddush.org/article-2609-0-Hiddushs_Supreme_Court_petition_stops_illegal_funding_to_ultraOrthodox_draft_dodgers.aspx

“The petition… challenged the legality of continued State subsidies to yeshiva students who should be required to serve in the army or national service. The petition maintained that the legal basis for continued State funding for the yeshiva students ended as soon as the Tal Law, which granted yeshiva students mass exemption from military/civil service, was annulled by the Supreme Court. The Tal Law facilitated mass exemptions of 14% of the annual conscription, which is close to 60,000 yeshiva students who are of military service age. The law was annulled by the court almost two years ago, but the Knesset is debating a new law to replace it, and still hasn’t applied the legal draft requirement…

The Haredi [ultra-Orthodox] and general media are full of statements describing the court decision as a declaration of war by the Supreme Court against the Torah and Haredi Judaism, claiming that it once again proves the illegitimacy of the [Supreme] Court and its prejudice against ultra-Orthodox Jews. United Torah Judaism (UTJ) MK Rabbi Israel Eichler went as far as to claim that the Justices were bribed by the Reform Movement, and MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni (also from UTJ) has called to respond with war against the petition and its supporters.”

The Shas Party also reacted in a way that pits the democratically elected members of the Knesset and the Israeli High Court against the authority of ultra-Orthodox rabbis:

“We regret that the High Court joined the persecution of Torah Jewry tonight by crudely intervening into the sensitive legislation procedure that is being discussed these days in the legislative body. … The decision to impose economic sanctions is solely intended to join the assault and incitement against Torah scholars in Israel.” (The Yeshiva World News, February 4, 2014)

Hiddush was sited in that same press release by The Yeshiva World News:

The High Court clarified to the Knesset that even its infinite patience has a limit and the court will not permit the flow of hundreds of millions of shekels against the law. Since the cancellation of the Tal Law 18 months ago the state has been violating the law by not recruiting the yeshiva students. It adds insult to injury when it finances their remaining elsewhere. The High Court placed a border on the scandal. Hopefully the politicians will come to their senses and take action in the coming days to complete the share the burden equality law so another appeal will not have to be filed with the High Court.

The founder of Hiddush, Rabbi Uri Regev, has scored a major victory for democracy and fairness in Israeli society. For more information and news on the work of Hiddush, see http://www.hiddush.org/