A grim day for the IDF, ultra-Orthodox
Hebrew media review

A grim day for the IDF, ultra-Orthodox

An officer dies from wounds inflicted by another Israeli soldier, and the High Court of Justice puts the kibosh on Haredi draft delays

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Illustrative photo of soldiers from Nahal Haredi, an ultra-Orthodox battalion in the Israel Defense Forces (Abir Sultan/Flash90, File)
Illustrative photo of soldiers from Nahal Haredi, an ultra-Orthodox battalion in the Israel Defense Forces (Abir Sultan/Flash90, File)

Cancer, ultra-Orthodox enlistment and the death of an IDF officer make the front pages across the media spectrum.

Captain Tal Nachman was shot in the back and succumbed to his wounds in a friendly fire incident near the border with the Gaza Strip. The headlines attempt to encapsulate the Nachman family’s grief and outrage at the death of their son.

“Concerned about kidnappings and tunnels and armed Hamas [fighters] near the fence: The continuous tension of IDF soldiers on the border with the Strip takes its toll,” Maariv says on its front page.

It reports that initial investigations indicate that the Givati Brigade soldier who shot 21-year-old Nachman may have had a hair-trigger finger and didn’t follow protocol.

“Horrible accident,” runs Israel Hayom’s front page head. “The life of a child gone because of nonsense,” the paper quotes his father saying. 

“For two days I waited as if for bad news, I even slept in Tal’s bed. And then, at five in the morning, they knocked on the door,” Yedioth Ahronoth quotes the father in the headline. The paper reports that Nahman was killed on his final mission as a combat officer and was about to be transferred to serve as an instructor in basic training.

Haaretz plays it straight, avoiding the emotional touch common in Yedioth and Israel Hayom. “An officer was killed by IDF fire on the border with Gaza,” it writes. The paper reports that Nachman, a field intelligence officer, was in the midst of retrieving equipment from an APC when a soldier on patrol discerned someone atop the vehicle. 

While Nachman was being laid to rest after his service in the military, the High Court of Justice ruled to strip government funds from ultra-Orthodox yeshivas whose students have neglected to enlist.

Israel Hayom writes that Tuesday “will be remembered as an especially significant day in the fight for equal [military service] burden.” Two years after shooting down the Tal Law, which granted de-facto exemptions from mandatory service to 18-year-old men from the ultra-Orthodox community, an 8-1 majority in the High Court barred the government from financing institutions of Torah learning whose students didn’t report for duty since August 2012.

Haaretz reports that Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon pushed off the draft date for ultra-Orthodox Israelis three times since the Tal Law was struck down. According to the paper, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who until recently stayed away from the issue of ultra-Orthodox draft and left it to his coalition partners the Jewish Home party and the Yesh Atid party, started getting involved two weeks ago.

Yedioth reports that according to IDF statistics, at least 10,000 enlistment letters have been sent out to ultra-Orthodox Israelis since the Tal Law expired, and the majority have not reported to the draft office. As for the money, Yedioth writes that the HCJ ruling is likely to inject around NIS 500 million ($141 million) into the state’s coffers.

Maariv quotes members of religious parties railing against the court’s ruling and calling it a declaration of war against the religious community. MK Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism) said “the HCJ is recognized from today as an enemy to the ultra-Orthodox public with its discriminatory rulings.”

MK Yaakov Litzman, also of UTJ, said that “the yeshiva boys who contribute their faith will continue in their learning, and no force, economic or criminal, will prevent them from it, not now and not in the future.”

Professor Aviad Hacohen writes in Israel Hayom that the court’s decision was “the right step, in the right direction, at the right time.” While he admits the move won’t result in tens of thousands of Haredi men enlisting in the IDF, “canceling the [fiscal] benefits will likely strengthen the blessed trend of recent years, in which thousands of ultra-Orthodox integrate in the higher education system and afterwards go work.”

Amos Harel writes in Haaretz that the court’s interim injunction “won’t have major financial implications. At a rough estimate, it will freeze some 10 million shekels ($2.8 million) a year in yeshiva funding,” he says, contradicting Yedioth. “By issuing the injunction, the court has effectively put an end to the ongoing political foot-dragging over finishing the new law,” he says.

The press also jumps on the World Health Organization’s announcement that in the next two decades countries will face a “tsunami” of cancer cases, which will rise 75 percent. Haaretz points the finger on its front page at alcohol, tobacco, sugar and fatty foods. Maariv paraphrases the WHO saying that states must stop thinking they can treat the sick instead of working to prevent new cases.

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