Haredi students in classroom.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Leaked figures on haredi enlistment in the civilian National Service (Sherut Leumi), an alternative to military service, show a precipitous decline in the number of haredi men joining the framework.
According to figures reported by the haredi news site B’hadrei Haredim, just 728 haredi men joined the civilian service in the 2015 enlistment year, July 2015 to June 2016, less than half of the government target of 1,800.
In contrast, three times as many Arabs as haredim volunteer for National Service, the director of the National Service Authority, Sar-Shalom Jerbi, announced Sunday.
Jerbi said that out of some 18,000 volunteers, 8,500 came from national-religious backgrounds, 4,500 were Arabs and 1,500 were haredim.
Enlistment in the National Service was supposed to be the second component of the government’s policy of integrating haredi men into the workforce.
In lieu of enlisting in the IDF, haredi men are able to perform National Service in the fields of health care, welfare, environmental protection and emergency services such as the fire, ambulance and Prisons Service, as well as the Israel Police.
Although the requirement of mandatory enlistment by 2017 was obviated by an amendment passed by the current government, the enlistment targets are an important barometer for measuring the rate of haredi enlistment.
Failure to meet these targets would strengthen the argument of petitions made to the High Court of Justice against the new amendment.
In 2014, 2,280 haredi men enlisted to the IDF, barely missing the target of 2,300, while just 747 haredi men enlisted in the National Service, missing the target of 1,500 by almost 50%.
Official figures for enlistment to the IDF for 2015 are not yet available, although the target is 2,700 and initial reports have suggested that this was reached.
The severe shortfall in the numbers of haredi men enlisting in the National Service is likely due to the fact that some 30,000 haredi men aged 22 to 26 were given an immediate exemption from all national service, military or civilian, when the Law for Haredi Conscription passed by the last government went into effect in 2014.
This mass exemption denied the civilian service program a massive pool of potential recruits.
In addition, the pay in the National Service is approximately a third of the pay for a married soldier in the IDF.
And service in the IDF, especially in the Shahar programs which place haredi men in hi-tech units of the army, are especially valuable when seeking work after military service, since these IDF tracks provide recruits with significant professional training.
These factors, along with the lack of incentive both economically and legally, for enlisting in the National Service have led to the severe decline in enlistment to the program.