With plans already under way to cut compulsory service in the IDF, the army has also recently decided to upgrade Shlav Bet - military service for new immigrants in their mid twenties - although this time by making the service longer and not cutting it down.
Starting mid-May, new immigrants between the ages of 22 and 26 will serve a total of six months in the army as opposed to the three months Shlav Bet soldiers used to serve in the past. However, previously, older immigrants also had to serve.
The immigrant-soldiers will spend their first four weeks in the army undergoing basic training and an intensive course in Hebrew at the Alon Farm near Karmiel, following which they will each be sent to various courses and units across the country. On average, the army said it absorbs 300 Shlav Bet soldiers a year.
Until now, new immigrants of those ages served a maximum of four months in the army, during which they underwent basic training and, most of the time, carried out guard duties in settlements and front-line communities. Younger immigrants served between two and two and a half years, while married men and fathers usually received exemptions.
By extending the Shlav Bet service, the army plans to make better use of the new-immigrant resource and train them to perform duties that do not just involve sitting in a guard tower.
"The Shlav Bet soldiers were not well trained and did not fit in with the type of reserves we are trying to create," a senior officer from the IDF's Human Resources Division told The Jerusalem Post
. "We felt that we needed to offer them more and to train them to be better reservists and citizens of the State of Israel."
The changes in Shlav Bet, the officer said, were part of an overall IDF reorganization process. Just last month, in a sweeping change for the nation's youth, the cabinet accepted the conclusions of the Ben-Bassat Committee, which recommended to gradually cut compulsory army service for males from 36 to 24 months.
"The reserves are supposed to be just for emergencies, and the Shlav Bet soldiers were not sufficiently prepared," the officer said.
But while the officer said he believed the new service would attract additional immigrants, Josie Arbel, an aliya advisor with the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel (AACI), warned that such a change could influence the aliya decision-making process in different ways.
"When this type of thing changes it has serious impact on people's decisions," Arbel said. "Military service is a crucial part of people's aliya and people need to know what they are getting themselves into."
Potential immigrants, Arbel said, usually looked into their military service before moving to Israel. "Sometimes they wait and come later to have less service, while others who are more motivated prefer to come earlier and serve more time," she explained. "It is based on an individual basis and there are all kinds of new immigrants."
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