Monday, April 1, 2013

Israel Takes On Universal Minyan Conscription

Israeli party leaders entered into talks today on an explosive issue which has exposed deep societal rifts in Israel: pre-flight prayer minyans.

The talks come on the heels of negotiations over Haredi military conscription into the Israel Defense Forces, in which nearly 5500 religious Haredim who would serve in the military.  In return, the religious Shas party is asking for an increase in secular Israelis who participate in the brief prayer services held by religious Israelis before boarding airplanes to and from the Jewish State.

Soliciting secular Jewish participation in a minyan (or quorum) is a common occurrence before these flights.  When not enough religious Jews are available to meet the required 10-person quorum for prayer, secular Jews are often asked to participate to make a quorum.  Under the proposed agreement, secular Israelis would be allowed to turn down one ask per year to join a pre-flight minyan.  Yesh Atid is demanding these exemptions be extended to cover in-flight minyans as well.

Reaction in Israel was mixed to news of progress in the talks.  "To say that this participation should be required will harm Israeli society," explained Labor party leader Shelly Yachimovitch.  "The act of sitting and playing on one's phone before a flight is just as important as the pre-flight minyan.  It contributes to the process of social welfare reform this country so badly needs."

Other MKs were more supportive of the plan.  "The chilonim (seculars) are a burden on the state," explained Yaakov Litzman of United Torah Judaism.  "They sit around while religious Jews pray for them, and even eat airline food with a sub-par kashrus certification.  It is high time they contributed their fair share."  Kashrus refers to traditional Jewish dietary laws.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni was negotiating Israeli/Palestinian peace at the time of publication and could not be reached for comment.

Israel's Prime Minister's wife, Sara Netanyahu, has been put into a tough position by the news.  Both of Likud's coalition partners, Yesh Atid and HaBayit HaYehudi, support universal minyan conscription.  However, the PM's Likud party has a strong secular wing which could destabilize the new coalition if they are unhappy with the outcome of the talks.

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