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Men who immigrate to Israel between the ages of 24 and 29 are often drafted by the IDF for an abbreviated and - many complain - purposeless service as truck drivers or guards. Now, with the focus of aliya shifting to the affluent nations of the West, the government is launching a program to offer these young men, who often have valuable skills, a more meaningful military service.
The program, a joint effort of the Immigrant Absorption Ministry and the IDF, will take participants through two weeks of basic training and integrate them into the army's professional corps as officers.
"They'll be able to work as computer programmers, engineers, doctors, and those sorts of positions," said an Immigrant Absorption Ministry representative, who added that the list of eligible positions was still being finalized by the IDF's Human Resources Directorate.
The new program seeks not only to better utilize the knowledge of Western olim, but to encourage that aliya in the first place. To that end, the ministry plans to advertise its new partnership with the army on its Web site and in the target communities in the West.
Since the State of Israel, from the days of Ben-Gurion, refrains from soliciting other nations' citizens to become Israeli, there may be a problem if the ministry advertises aliya overseas. (Jewish Agency emissaries encourage aliya in Jewish communities around the world, not official Israeli representatives.) Currently, the ministry has yet to sort out an arrangement for this activity, but will do so in the near future, the spokesperson said.
The program is also seen as a way to better integrate new immigrants into society.
"The integration of olim in the IDF has a decisive influence on how they are absorbed in the country," outgoing Immigrant Absorption Minister Ze'ev Boim said of the program. "[Military] service is the express ticket into Israeli society."