A shofar resting upon a hebrew book

The Israeli Parliament passed a controversial piece of legislature demanding that some Ultra-Orthodox Jews must serve in the army despite religious views.

Members of the cabinet supported the law as 67 of the 68 members agreed that the bill will take a burden off the military and support the Israeli economy. Jews serve in the military between the ages of 18 and 21. Many protesters took streets in early March and will resist the legislation, which is expected to start in 2017. This would end the 65-year exemption from service and men would have to either join the army or perform a civil service. Those who evade conscription, imprisonment and other penalties would follow.

There would be financial incentives for schools sending students to the army.

“This could do wonders for the economy. After receiving vocational training and education, this new source of talent would flow into Israel’s work force in a way that has not been seen since the huge post-Soviet immigration of the 1990s, when some one million people immigrated to Israel.” Economy Minister Naftali Bennett wrote his column for The New York Times.

Draft exemptions started after Israel became an independent state in 1948 when the country allowed for some students to dedicate time to religious studies. For many years young men were allowed to avoid being drafted and become exempted from the mandatory three years military service. This has caused a great divide between the secular Jews and the ultra-Orthodox Jews, who make up 10 percent of the country’s eight million people.

Many supporters said ultra-Orthodox men study full-time into adulthood and receive welfare checks and other resources to maintain their life style and the country needs these men in the workforce. This has threatened Israel’s economic growth not only with this area, but the high unemployment in the Arab areas of the country as well.

“Itzhak Vaknin from the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party told the Associated Press. “We understand there is a need to participate in things, but there is also a great duty of the people of Israel to study Torah.”

Members of the ultra-Orthodox said they serve their country through prayer and by studying.

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