Police arrest Haredi rioters in Jerusalem during May anti-Draft protest (video clip)

Israel's Knesset is poised for a pivotal vote on Monday that could dramatically shape the country's long-standing policy of granting draft exemptions to ultra-Orthodox students enrolled in Yeshivot, or advanced Judaic study institutions. This decision has ignited a firestorm of debate, encapsulating the nation's deep religious and sectarian divides.

Earlier this month, Israel's Supreme Court grappled with the contentious policy, weighing it against the urgent need for increased manpower in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). A bold plan currently under consideration aims to draft 3,000 ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, men into the military, a proposal that has been met with fierce resistance from the Haredi community.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is reportedly poised to vote against the continuity bill for the Haredi draft law in the Knesset Plenum on Monday, as reported by Israeli media. His stance has only added fuel to the already blazing controversy.

The issue has fractured Israel, pitting secular and religious citizens against each other. Ultra-Orthodox parties have threatened to dismantle the government coalition if these exemptions are revoked, underscoring the political volatility of the situation. In recent weeks, thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in cities with significant Haredi populations, vehemently opposing the Supreme Court and military's push for the recruitment plan.

The January 2022 Haredi draft bill proposed allowing 21-year-old Haredi men to join the national emergency and rescue system. It also offered two enlistment options for Haredim: a shortened service of either three weeks or three months, after which soldiers would transition to reserve duty. The bill set ambitious recruitment targets, threatening financial sanctions against yeshivas that fail to meet these goals. However, it notably exempted individual students from personal financial penalties.

Financial consequences outlined in the bill included a gradual reduction of yeshiva budgets, starting with a 20% decrease, escalating annually for consecutive years of non-compliance.

The passage of the continuity bill would empower Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to advance the Haredi conscription law, which had previously passed its first reading in January 2022 under the Lapid-Bennett government. This development could mark a significant shift in Israel's approach to military conscription and the role of the ultra-Orthodox community within it.

As the Knesset prepares to vote, the nation watches with bated breath, aware that the outcome could redefine the delicate balance between religious tradition and national duty.

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