Israel’s cabinet on Sunday voted to double the number of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men called up for compulsory military service, a move described as revolutionary by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
A statement from Netanyahu’s office said that the decision would boost the number of ultra-Orthodox men joining the army from about 1,000 at present to 2,400 by 2015.
It said a further 2,400 would perform alternative forms of national service outside the military.
Such alternatives typically include working in hospitals, the police force, or as paramedics.
In many ultra-Orthodox families, men devote all of their time to studying scripture and raise typically large families with the help of grants from religious foundations and the state welfare system.
Sunday’s statement said that 60 percent of the ultra-Orthodox are classified as living below the poverty line but that those who had served in the army bucked the trend, with 80 percent of them finding jobs.
“This is a revolution, a significant revolution,” Netanyahu told reporters at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting.
“It will have very great consequences for the integration of the ultra-Orthodox into society and the economy.”
Traditionally most of the community’s young men and women were exempted from army service on the grounds of full-time religious study or because the military environment flouts religious prohibitions on contact between men and women.
Most other Israelis serve a mandatory three years in the case of men and a little less than two years for women, beginning at age 18.
Arab Israelis are not obliged to serve but may volunteer.
To read more, visit: Israel army to enlist more ultra-Orthodox
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