This week, thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews protested in Jerusalem against attempts to draft the Orthodox community into the Israeli military.
The current law in Israel exempts ultra-Orthodox Jews from military service. This exemption infuriates other types of Jews -- such as Conservative and Reform -- since they are required to serve in the military for three years.
Israel's Supreme Court recently ruled that the law exempting ultra-Orthodox Jews must be revised, and set August 1, 2012 as the deadline for its revision. In other words, if Israel does not pass a new law regarding the military requirement of ultra-Orthodox Jews by August 1, the Supreme Court will decide on their military fate.
We believe that ultra-Orthodox Jews -- like all other Jews -- should be drafted in Israel. Failing to do so conveys that Israel employs a "caste system" in which Israel's federal government treats ultra-Orthodox Jews more favorably than other Jews, who must put their lives on the line by serving in the military to ensure that Israel maintains its freedom.
Moreover, we believe that -- from the time Israel became an independent nation in 1948 -- ultra-Orthodox Jews should have been required to serve in Israel's military. Exempting them from the draft for over 60 years has been sending a wrong message -- a message that says it is all right for ultra-Orthodox Jews to have more rights and more independence than other Jews in Israel.
Some ultra-Orthodox Jews have said that they would go to prison, rather than serve in Israel's military. That being the case, these Jews should serve a three-year prison sentence -- the same number of years that they would have served in the military.
In the final analysis, ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel need to do their fair share -- like all other Jews -- in providing the manpower needed to allow Israel to remain a free nation. Indeed, serving in Israel's military should be something that ultra-Orthodox Jews should be proud of doing -- just as the pride they show in their religious studies and beliefs -- and not something they should avoid.
After all, if Israel were to lose its freedom -- and this is a real possibility, based on the fact that it is surrounded by belligerent Arab neighbors -- many of the rights that all Jews (including ultra-Orthodox Jews) in Israel now enjoy would come to an abrupt end.