Saturday, August 4, 2007

Civilian Service

Currently in Israel, when a young man or woman reaches the age of 18 and graduates from high school, they have one of four options:
1. Army service, which can last minimally 2-3 years
2. Sherut Leumi (National Service), a volunteer option chosen mostly by religious women who do not want to serve as soldiers in the army
3. Ideological Refusal, for men and women who find the army morally objectionable and refuse to serve and very often get jailed
4. Flee the country for the designated period of time that you would have to serve in the army, and hope that the next time you cross into the border the computer doesn't flag you as a criminal.

A proposed initiative has recommended a new category of Sherut Ezrachi, Civilian Service, which would allow men and women, Israeli and Arab-Israeli, religious and non-religious to volunteer in service of the country, and legally fulfill their army service. Reaction has varied, with the Arab-Israelis claiming that since they could never be treated as equals in Israeli society, they feel no obligation to help, for example, autistic Israeli children. Some of the non religious feel that they would want to volunteer out of personal choice, and not be forced by law to be "nice people." The religious across the board have said that they will do "whatever their Rabbis tell them to do."

Others, who have tried to volunteer, complain that the army is not interested in their service, whether or not there is official law in place, and I can relate. When I first came to Israel, I arrived at the army recruiting office in Jerusalem and presented my professional credentials, and asked to serve as a Chiropractor for soldiers and officers in Tel HaShomer, the army hospital. After a lengthy interview process and security scrutiny, I was told that "budgetary issues" and "ageism" prevented me from serving, apparently they would have had to pay me a decent salary. I would have been willing to forgo the full salary, in order to have a solid answer for my children, when they would ask me one day, "and what did you do in the army?"

So many artificial issues divide Israeli society, including race, Sephardi vs Ashkenazi, Sabra vs Immigrant Israeli, religious vs non religious; the Sherut Ezrachi initiative would remove some of those barriers, and make citizens feel that each person was contributing to the betterment of the country.

In deference to those who regularly serve in army when called up, despite the hassle to their lives and their family, and in honor of those MIAs, dead or alive, who have yet to be returned to us, it is only right that each person do their fair share.

1 comment:

Jonathan Ross said...

The point of national service is to defend the country period. All the other cop-out, pc stuff is to put a plaster on the social decay of Israeli society where you are a "friyer" if you serve and cool if you get out of it.

Each person must serve according to age, health and ability or they should not get full citizenship.

This will force the army to get in gear and learn how to employ skills. But frankly we don't need more alternatives for a bunch of spineless draft dodgers.