There are few more emotive issues in Israel today than the need to create a more
equitable system of military conscription and national service. The prospects
for a universal draft may be just one of many core issues at the heart of the
current election campaign, yet you can be sure that equalizing the burden will
undoubtedly be near the top of the agenda of any incoming
While much of the debate on conscription over the coming
months will likely revolve around precise calculations of time-frames and
potential recruits, any effective strategy to truly widen military and national
service participation must include a meaningful educational plan in order to
secure the long-term change so desperately needed.
QUITE SIMPLY there is a
direct correlation between education and recruitment for military and national
service. In the latest IDF enlistment figures released this month, the
municipality of Modi’in Maccabim- Re’ut, of which I am mayor, was found to have
the highest recruitment rate in Israel for the second year
Calculated as a combination of the ratio of recruits and the
number of combat soldiers and officers, it is an achievement for the entire city
of which I am enormously proud. However, it is an accomplishment that has been
attained not by chance, but through a carefully constructed city-wide
educational plan, incorporating the efforts of parents and schools
For several years, high schools in Modi’in have participated in
educational enrichment activities highlighting the importance of the IDF in
Israeli society while army representatives visit 11th- and 12thgraders to give
practical help preparing for their mobilization.
schools have “adopted” an army division, helping support their soldiers and
becoming part of the life of the unit. Our city’s educational commitment has
immeasurably helped to produce a generation of young people more motivated than
ever to enlist and contribute to the greater good of their community and their
It is a model which can and should be replicated across Israel.
Sadly we live in an age where the desire to serve can no longer be taken for
granted. In geographical areas where draft rates are low, a culture in which
refusal becomes a socially acceptable and valid choice can easily
Breaking this damaging cycle is reliant not only upon the force
of legislation and the threat of punishment, but a sound education which
enthuses and encourages our young people to make the active choice to serve.
Such a process will ensure that cities, towns and communities will reap the
rewards. Over time, they will inevitably benefit from a young population with
access to the enhanced educational and employment opportunities made possible by
OF COURSE, the kind of initiative that is in place in
Modi’in, rooted in Zionist education and commitment is unlikely to increase the
integration of haredi (ultra-Orthodox) and Arab youth into military and national
service frameworks. However, the educational principle behind the idea applies
in equal measure.
The introduction of suitable educational programs in
haredi and Arab schools must be made possible to help these communities slowly
but surely internalize the benefits of service. There are any number of
initiatives which would illustrate for them the positive impact of
Partnering Arab schools with welfare projects in their own
towns and villages would make a valuable contribution to entire municipalities.
Meanwhile, haredi soldiers could be the role models to demonstrate to the youth
of their community that military service can complement a Torah-observant
Alternatively, simply learning how the values of charity,
communal responsibility and volunteerism are rooted in Jewish and Arab culture
and religion can help to normalize the idea of national or military service in
If equalizing the burden is to become a long-term
national priority, then we must realize that there is no quick-fix solution.
While legislation and court rulings can institute forced enlistment, service in
the haredi and Arab communities and elsewhere can only be sustainable if it
becomes a service of choice.
This requires a sophisticated strategy aimed
at truly changing attitudes.
Our national leaders have struggled until
now to find a satisfactory formula to facilitate a more equal draft. If
equitable enlistment is to become a reality, then education must be at least
part of the solution.
The results speak for themselves in Modi’in. Now we
must replicate this success elsewhere for the sake of all Israelis.
writer is the mayor of the city of Modi’in Maccabim- Re’ut.