100 Chabad men each year will be allowed to serve as Chabad emissaries in the Diaspora and have it count as national civilian service in Israel and as a replacement there for military service, the special Knesset committee writing the Israel’s new draft law decided today over strong objections from the IDF, which argued that exempting the Chabad men would undermine efforts to draft haredim and discriminate against non-haredi men.
Against IDF’s Wishes, Knesset Committee Decides To Exempt Chabad Missionaries Who Serve Overseas From The Draft
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
100 Chabad men each year will be allowed to serve as Chabad missionaries in the Diaspora and have that count as national civilian service in Israel and as a replacement there for military service, the special Knesset committee writing the Israel’s new draft law reportedly decided today over strong objections from the IDF, which argued that exempting the Chabad men would undermine efforts to draft haredim and discriminate against non-haredi men.
“This proposal significantly undermines equality in the burden [of service] and advances neither the drafting of the Haredim nor their integration. We have agreements from the past for drafting a significant portion of the Chabad population into the army, and this proposal is damaging. It sends the wrong message about drafting Haredim.…This proposal distances the soldier serving on the Lebanese border from the ‘soldier’ doing volunteer work in Thailand,” Brig. Gen. Gadi Agmon, head of the IDF planning and personnel, reportedly told the Knesset committee.
After the vote was taken, MKs Ofer Shelah from the Yesh Atid Party and Omer Bar-Lev of the Labor Party reportedly asked the committee to reconsider.
“It’s inconceivable that in the framework of the security service law, we should send people to serve overseas. The issue isn’t Chabad - the problem is that today we’re talking about Chabad and tomorrow other organizations will apply [for similar status], and then we’ll have to argue over which organization contributes to the state and which doesn’t. Therefore, we need to set a boundary. And the boundary for security service should be within the borders of the State of Israel,” Bar-Lev reportedly said.
The Chabad men usually spend one year as emissaries after graduating from their equivalent of yeshiva high school. Some serve that year in Israel. Others serve it in New York, Paris, or other cities with Chabad yeshivas, where they study for ordination and help local Chabad emissaries run programs.
After the meeting, Bar-Lev told Haaretz that he also objects to civilian national service volunteers getting very similar benefits to what demobilized soldiers get. This improper equivalency “legitimizes turning national service into an alternative form of military service, with equal benefits for the volunteers.…This is unacceptable, and could lead to a problematic result that would empty the concept of ‘the people’s army’ of all content.”