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Knesset Approves Service Bill for Women by a 59 to 6 Vote

The Israel Parliament last night gave approval to the first reading of the government bill to draft religious young women for national non-military service. The measure was passed by a vote of 59 to 6, with eight abstentions.

The Agudah and Labor Agudah deputies, joined by the Communists, cast the dissenting votes, while the Mizrachi and Herut parties abstained. The deputies of the Labor Mizrachi, who had been expected to support the government coalition of which they are members, cast no ballots at all. The bill was referred to the Labor Committee.

An attempt to delay debate on the bill until after the Knesset’s summer recess, proposed by a Poale Mizrachi deputy, was beaten after Meir Argov, leading Mapai deputy, appealed for an early vote on the measure in order “not to prolong this wild incitement against the state which the religious elements are conducting.” The Communist deputies joined the religious members, but the government won over-whelmingly.

When the debate started, Agudah leader L.M. Lewin declared: “A couple of thousand girls will not solve the manpower problem.” He was interrupted by a storm of indignation when he asserted that “it is an open secret that girls who join the army do not return the same as when they left.” Speaker of the Knesset Joseph Sprinzak had a hard time restoring order.

Rabbi Lewin threatened that if the measure is passed, religious Jewry will organize “quiet demonstrations and will go to the people to explain why they oppose having their daughters join any form of compulsory service.” (In New York, The Rabbinical Council of America sent a protest to the Israel Government against the bill.)

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