"Equal draft for all!"

Monday, July 09, 2012 |  Kerstin Braun

This past Saturday night more than 12,000 Israelis gathered at a rally for a universal military service in Tel Aviv. The protesters demand the recruitment of the Orthodox population at 18 years to either military - or civil service. The charismatic Yair Lapid and his new party "Yesh Atid" ("There is a future") were hosting the event, which also took place in order to honor war veterans and reservists of the Israeli army.

Among others, ex-Chief-of-Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, the Israeli singer Idan Haviv and former Kadima-leader Zippi Livni joined the event. "If Israel wants to remain democratic, then a decision must be made. As a citizen of the state and a mother of a soldier, I am here with you tonight,” Livni adressed the crowd. Some Israeli students, about to be recruited, said they no longer want to be "Freierim", a term for people who put up with injustice.

Yair Lapid is convinced that the state of Israel could save billions of shekels, if Ultra-Orthodox Jews would serve in the army or perform any kind of national service and therefore could afterwards be integrated into the working world. Explaining his motives he turned directly to the Orthodox Society of Israel: “We do not hate you and that is not an anti-Haredi move. The truth is we can no longer serve this country without your help.” In the same way he addressed Israel's Arab population. “You are citizens who have equal rights but with equal rights come equal responsibilities.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects the entry age of 18, but on the other hand regards a recruitment of the Orthodox at ages 23 to 25 as possible. “Netanyahu must understand that his old political games no longer work. He must give answers to the people and create a law that forces everyone to the serve,” said Lapid on Saturday. The event concluded with the words: "We are neither right nor left we are the people of Israel!"

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