TEL AVIV—Israel is struggling to contain a concentration of coronavirus infections among ultraorthodox Jews, with the impact reaching Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who went into isolation after an adviser from the community tested positive.
Mr. Netanyahu’s office said on Monday evening that his test for the virus, as well as those of his family and close staff, came out negative, though officials said he would remain in isolation as a precaution in keeping with ministry of health guidelines.
While the ultraorthodox make up about 10% of Israel’s population, ultraorthodox patients account for 50% of those hospitalized with the coronavirus disease, Covid-19, according to an analysis by Israel’s Channel 12. Continue reading
JERUSALEM — Israel’s Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down the current government arrangement allowing for mass exemptions for ultra-Orthodox Jews from compulsory military service, calling it discriminatory and unconstitutional. The ruling redraws the battle lines over an issue that has long roiled Israeli society.
The impassioned debate over military exemptions for strictly Orthodox Jews engaged in full-time Torah study goes to the heart of the struggle for the future character of Israel.
In a country where most Jewish men and women are conscripted at 18, and where the military is hallowed as a social equalizer and a people’s army protecting Israel from threats on its borders, past attempts to reduce the scope of exemptions and create a more equitable sharing of the national burden only seem to have underscored deep social divisions.
“The history of this societal controversy reflects the history of the State of Israel itself,” wrote the departing president of the Supreme Court, Justice Miriam Naor, in the 148-page ruling, noting that the court had already ruled on the issue several times before.
The court gave the government a year to come up with alternative legislation that would satisfy the basic principle of equality. This latest ruling came in response to a petition by several nongovernmental pressure groups and Yesh Atid, a centrist party led by Yair Lapid, who has championed the cause of equal service in recent years both in the government and now in the opposition.
The court decision was reached by eight members of a nine-judge panel sitting as the High Court of Justice, with one member dissenting. It presents a new challenge for the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, already beleaguered by corruption investigations and reliant on the support of his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners.