No more lying for “religious” girls

by Brian on February 10, 2012

in In the News,Politics

We know a girl named Liat who lied to get out of doing army service. Despite living a secular lifestyle, she told the army she was religious, which gave her an automatic exemption. She then made matters even worse: instead of signing up for national service, which most non-haredi religious girls do, she instead fled the country where, last I heard, she was selling Dead Sea products in a Florida mall.

Liat’s story was the subject of many Shabbat conversations in our family, with the clear consensus being that, if not quite a traitor, she was still committing some serious ethical breeches through her dubious decisions.

Now it looks like Liat and others like her won’t have it so easy. A new bill winding its way through the Knesset (it’s now being prepared for its second and third readings by the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee) would force girls caught lying about their religiosity to enlist…or even be put on trial.

Currently, there are three conditions for girls to be exempted from military service for religious reasons: keeping kosher, not traveling on Shabbat, and the more fungible category of having a “religious lifestyle” in their home. Girls studying in religious schools get an automatic exemption without even having to apply; students in non-Orthodox schools must testify before a local rabbinical committee.

While I’m 100% in favor of cracking down on liars, there are echoes in the proposed bill that remind me of recent outrages regarding conversions, where the rabbinical authorities have retroactively annulled conversions where the convert has been “caught” no longer keeping Shabbat, for example.

To be sure, no one (well, almost no one) wants the religious police checking into your private business. But the conversion debacle is not the same as this new bill; it’s more a matter of contemporary religious extremism never before mandated in Jewish Law, while army service is a national, (nearly) universally accepted law.

Naturally, any change having to do with the religious status quo raised quite a ruckus in the Knesset. United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni spoke out against the legislation, saying it “reeks of underhanded opportunism” and is unacceptable, according to The Jerusalem Post. He called for the bill to not apply to national religious and haredi girls. Is he suggesting that those sectors never lie either? Or just that girls shouldn’t serve in the army, period?

Coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin from the Likud countered that the bill would only apply to girls who lie (or who stop being observant after receiving an exemption), and therefore wouldn’t affect haredi girls anyway (unless they are sinning in their hearts, wink, wink Jimmy Carter circa 1977).

According to the IDF’s Manpower division, hundreds more girls will join the IDF, should the bill pass. How’s that for honesty?

This post appeared earlier in the week on Israelity.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Shelly February 10, 2012 at 1:41 pm

Even girls in a religious school do need to apply for an exemption. They don’t need to testify though. Personally I am very against girls lying to get out of service, and strongly believe the girls who don’t go into the army should do sherut leumi (as my daughters did). But this law does sound problematic on many levels. Who would decide exactly what it means to be religious, where the line is? And who would be chosen to judge these girls? How? Sounds highly invasive, and it’s a very subjective matter which is hard to quantify.

2 Gary Heller February 10, 2012 at 3:21 pm

I’m in Florida now visiting family… I was at the Boca mall and saw a girl selling- you guessed it- Dead Sea products. I started talking with her, as is my custom, you know, Jewish geography & such, and she was v-e-r-y evasive, unlike most Israelis. Ya think……?

3 Rachel February 12, 2012 at 11:00 pm

As the deeply religious are obvious strict constructionists of biblical writings I would challenge them to explain why anyone should be exempted from the defense of Israel on any grounds. Could you imagine a youth conscripted to fight the Romans–would he or she have said “Oye, biblical studies come first, and by the way the food is not kosher enough in the army camps.”

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