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Chief Rabbinate to Oppose Military Service for Yeshiva Students

A new split in Orthodox ranks seemed to be developing here today after a decision by the Chief Rabbinate to oppose a move to end the exemption of yeshiva students from military duty.

The question was raised in the Knesset (Parliament) two weeks ago by the Independent Liberal faction and was debated by the coalition cabinet, including National Religious Party members. The religious kibbutz movement demanded an end to the exemption partly because many of its student members have served in the armed forces. Several religious youths who chose to interrupt their studies and volunteered for service were killed in action during the Six Day War. Non-religious parties too have argued that it was unfair for thousands of young men to be exempt from military service while thousands of others serve for periods of up to three years.

Some sources said here that the Chief Rabbinate’s decision was more likely to unite the religious bloc behind continued exemption than to cause a split.