The Knesset plenum approved Yesh Atid's draft bill on first reading early Tuesday morning, prompting dramatic acts of protest by haredi legislators. Ultra-Orthodox Knesset members declared Monday a day of mourning and tore the lapels of their shirts to signify their mourning.
The bill, which passed a 66-21 vote, will now be turned over to a special committee presided by MK Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) that will prepare the bill for second and third readings.
In the most dramatic display of discontent, MK Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism) chained himself to the podium before the bill was brought to a vote. "You have turned Tu B'Av, a happy day, into a day of mourning," he lamented. "(Yeshiva students) will continue to study the Torah even if they are cuffed."
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein reprimanded the lawmaker and ordered him to leave the hall. "This is a disgrace. You have just given the Ethics Committee more work and spoiled the efforts of many other members who spoke from the heart in a dignified manner," the speaker said. Knesset attendants then worked to un-cuff the haredi lawmaker.
The incident was preceded by a line of speeches against the bill by ultra-Orthodox MKs.
MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) attributed the tensions on the Golan border, the economic state and Israel's reduced credit rating to the "attack on the Torah."
"All because of our cynic finance minister, Yair Lapid, who doesn't care about the Jewish people. Some people like us believe that without the Torah the Jewish people have no raison d'être. You can smile your smug smiles while I say it, but no bill will change our way of life. We are not afraid."
MK Yakov Litzman vowed that the haredi public will give its life for the Torah.
Earlier, ultra-Orthodox MKs exited the plenum in order to recite the Selichot prayers. MK Porush went as far as blowing a shofar in one of the Knesset's corridors.
Minister Yaakov Peri (Yesh Atid ), chairman of the committee for equal share of the burden, said that the dradft bill represented "no less than a national economic and social purpose, and the change begins today.
"The era in which 50% of every age group does not serve the country and carry the responsibility on the Israeli economy is over. The era of distinguishing Jewish secular blood from Jewish haredi blood is over, as our enemies do not make that distinction," Peri added.
Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On also said she was against the bill, noting it had "no equality and no true share of the burden."