Haredim: Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jews now facing conscription

Religious community pays few taxes, receives vast subsidies and has avoided military service, provoking ire of wider society

Ultra-Orthodox Jews, also known as Haredim, gather to stage a protest against the compulsory military service in West Jerusalem on June 30, 2024
Thousands of Haredim have protested against the ruling that has ended their de-facto exemption from the draft
(Image credit: Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Israel's Supreme Court has ruled that ultra-Orthodox Jews can be conscripted into military service, sparking outcry among the powerful religious minority.

The religious Haredim community has been largely (and controversially) exempt from the draft since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. But the unanimous Supreme Court decision on 25 June reversed that exemption, ruling that the "difficult war" in Gaza (and the looming threat of another in Lebanon) meant "the burden of inequality" between conscripted and non-conscripted Israelis was "more than ever acute". In response, thousands of ultra-Orthodox men have taken to the streets in protest. 

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Harriet Marsden is a writer for The Week, mostly covering UK and global news and politics. Before joining the site, she was a freelance journalist for seven years, specialising in social affairs, gender equality and culture. She worked for The Guardian, The Times and The Independent, and regularly contributed articles to The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The New Statesman, Tortoise Media and Metro, as well as appearing on BBC Radio London, Times Radio and “Woman’s Hour”. She has a master’s in international journalism from City University, London, and was awarded the "journalist-at-large" fellowship by the Local Trust charity in 2021.