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Rabbi’s Update 6/26/2024

Dear Friends:

You have probably seen or read about yesterday’s unanimous decision by the Supreme Court of Israel which ruled that there is no legal basis for the government of Israel not to draft Haredi (“ultra-Orthodox”) young men and that the Israel Defense Forces must begin drafting them immediately. The Court also ruled that the government must stop funding Haredi yeshivot whose students study rather than serve in the army, since there is no legal basis for the funding. Specifically, the law which exempted Haredi yeshiva students from the draft and funded the yeshivot expired in June 2023, and the Cabinet passed an interim measure to continue the exemptions and the funding for ten months pending Knesset action. That Knesset action never came, due to both the ongoing war and the lack of agreement within the coalition. The Supreme Court ruled that the Cabinet’s move exceeded its authority and at any rate had expired, thus the ruling that there is no longer any legal basis to not draft yeshiva students and to fund the yeshivot.

I have seen a number of headlines in US newspapers and reports on US media which stated that the exemption for Haredim had “ended”, which is something of an overstatement. The Knesset could in theory pass another law exempting Haredim and funding the yeshivot. The problem is that the Haredi political parties are part of the governing coalition, but at the same time there are several Knesset members from the Likud as well as the non-Haredi Orthodox community (which does serve in the IDF) who will not support a continued exemption. On top of this, the Knesset is simultaneously debating a bill that raises the age at which reserve service ends from 40 to 41 for enlisted men and 45 to 46 for officers. Because of the ongoing war, the IDF is suffering from an extreme shortage of human resources and soldiers and their families are tired of endless reserve service when a community which comprises 13 percent of the population does not serve and simultaneously receives massive subsidies at public expense. The chair of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee of the Knesset is refusing to advance the reserve draft bill unless there is also a start to actually drafting yeshiva students -- but if yeshiva students are drafted, the Haredi parties will certainly bring the government down. So yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling is a serious threat to the survival of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s coalition.

My prediction is that yeshiva students will ultimately not wind up serving in significant numbers. (It should be noted that some Haredim do serve, voluntarily, often against the desires of their families and their rabbis.) The opposition to serving is so strong that Haredi young men will choose jail or leave the country rather than serve. The divide between the Haredi population and the rest of Israeli society may well be the leading social problem facing the country today and represents, in my opinion, a real threat to the survival of the country.

As a reminder, I am having drop-in hours on Thursday afternoons from 2 to 4 at the shul. For my drop-in hours, you do not need to make an appointment -- that would negate the whole point of drop-in hours -- but I’d urge you to check and make sure I am there regardless as sometimes there are unavoidable pastoral or other emergencies which might take me away from the building. Please note that tomorrow will be my last drop-in hours for a while as I will be on vacation for the month of July.

As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment; if you want to speak with me it’s best to make an appointment rather than assuming I will be there when you stop by. 

Additionally, if you know of a Kehilat Shalom congregant or another member of our Jewish community who could use a phone call, please let me know.


Rabbi Charles L. Arian

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