Former chief of staff visits ‘Suckers’ Tent’ in Jerusalem, signs petition

Former chief of staff visits ‘Suckers’ Tent’ in Jerusalem, signs petition

Gabi Ashkenazi labels status quo a ‘twisted reality’ and calls for universal service

Former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash90)
Former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash90)

Former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi visited the so-called “Suckers’ Tent” in Jerusalem Saturday and signed a petition calling for a universal service law to replace the expiring Tal Law.

Speaking at a launch event for the tent and the movement it represents, Ashkenazi decried the status quo — where many Israeli citizens, particularly from the ultra-Orthodox community, do not serve in the IDF or the civil service — as an “indicator of a twisted reality.” He added, “I think that everyone should serve the State of Israel.”

The “Suckers’ Tent” was set up Friday in Wohl Rose Park, located across the street from the Knesset, by IDF service members and mothers of soldiers who are fed up with the Tal Law’s virtual exemption of yeshiva students from army or national service. The current law is set to expire at the end of July, and the High Court of Justice recently ruled against an extension.

Saturday’s event was attended by former military brass, politicians and activists. Several rabbis were also in attendance.

A recent poll conducted by Hiddush, an Israeli NGO that supports the separation of religion and state, found that opinions about the Tal Law — which was ostensibly designed to draw ultra-Orthodox men into national service but for a decade perpetuated draft avoidance before it was struck down in February — were clearly divided along religious lines: 83% of secular Israelis supported the Tal Law’s repeal, and 86% of the Ultra-Orthodox opposed it.

Eighty-two percent of the sample population think that a new law must be passed to enforce mandatory conscription of all or most yeshiva students, the survey found.

Hiddush President Rabbi Uri Regev said, “The poll proves unequivocally that the Israeli public is sick and tired with politically-motivated mass exemption and is demanding mandatory service for yeshiva students.”

The survey, conducted at the end of February by the Smith Institute on behalf of Hiddush, based its findings on a representative sample of 500 adult Jews in Israel.

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