new recruits 88 298.
(photo credit: IDF Spokesman)
Officially, the IDF and the Defense Ministry will tell you that the sudden increase in interest in recruiting more Jews from the Diaspora has nothing to do with the recent increase in the number of male draft dodgers.
Last month, ahead of the August draft, the IDF revealed an increase in the number of teenagers dodging military service. The total reaches 25 percent of youth born in 1989 and scheduled to have enlisted into the IDF this summer. Some 11% of them received exemptions because they are haredim, an increase of 1% over last year. Seven percent did not enlist for medical reasons, including physical and mental conditions.
While the numbers did not signify a drastic increase - 23.9% dodged the draft in 2002 - what was striking was the fact that one out of every four 18-year-old males was somehow evading military service.
On record, officers say that the changes to the various military tracks available for new immigrants and Diaspora Jews has to do with a real and sincere desire to attract more newcomers. Behind closed doors, however, some admit the IDF can use all the help it can get.
The current numbers are also not overly worrisome for the IDF. What is making OC Human Resources Maj.-Gen. Elazar Stern lose sleep, however, is that the haredi percentage of draft dodgers is continuing to grow due to their high birthrate. The day is not far away when those evading service reaches close to 50%.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned last month that "the IDF, which is known as a people's army, will turn into an army of half the people."
To stop the number from increasing, Stern and Col. Ziki Sela, head of the department's Planning Division, have drafted a plan according to which the military will begin to offer a number of financial incentives for soldiers who serve a full term.
One such benefit under consideration is granting soldiers who serve three years in combat units free university tuition for their entire degree, not like today's one year. Other incentives include free public transportation for a specific period after the soldiers are released from the army.