Members of the haredi community may not be all that keen to serve in the army, but they don't shy away from serving the community. According to data in a 2004 social services survey on volunteer activities that was released on Monday by the Central Bureau of Statistics, haredim constitute the largest percentage of volunteers. Of Jewish volunteers, 36% were haredim, 27% religiously observant, 14% traditional and 13% secular.
Of Israel's total population aged 20 and upwards, 15%, namely 655,000 people, engaged in volunteer activities. Jews dominated the volunteer statistics both numerically and percentage-wise, with 17% of the Jewish population listed as volunteers, 14% of the Druze population and 9% of the Muslim and Christian population.
Percentages were more or less even with regard to volunteering as an individual or part of a group. The survey indicated that 43% of volunteers donated their services on an individual basis, while 44% did so as part of a group. In addition, 13% do voluntary work both on their own and within the framework of an organization.
One of the interesting revelations is that, despite the large number of women's organizations dedicated to volunteer activities, men are more inclined towards volunteerism than women. Of the number of volunteers in the population as a whole, 18% were men and 13% women. Moreover, men spent more time on volunteer activities than women. Thirty-nine percent of male volunteers devoted more than ten hours a month to volunteering compared to 31% of women.
Another myth dispelled by the survey was that volunteerism is more common among the uneducated than it is among the educated. According to the statistics, the opposite is true and the level of volunteerism rises with the level of education.
While it may be trite to say that there is greater reward in giving than in taking, responses by people polled in the survey give credence to the slogan. The same set of questions was put to volunteers and non-volunteers. Among the volunteers, 41% professed themselves to be "very satisfied" with their lives, whereas only 26% of the non-volunteers could say the same. Fifty-eight percent of the volunteers were happy with their financial status compared to 46% of the non-volunteers. Ninety-six percent of volunteers said they have close friends vis-a-vis 84% among non-volunteers. Volunteering is apparently a healthy exercise, since 88% said that they were in good health, while 75% of non-volunteers declared themselves to be healthy. Although volunteering is a good social outlet, it is not a complete panacea for loneliness. Twenty-five percent of volunteers admitted to being lonely but that was significantly less than the percentage of non-volunteers, 33% of whom acknowledged that they were lonely.