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(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Muhammad Titi, 19, did not have to enlist in the IDF after high school because he is Muslim. But the young man from Kafr Baane, located near Karmiel, still wanted to contribute to the country.
So, Titi elected to teach soccer to kids during a year and a half of national service, though the young Israeli-Arab was not required to volunteer as an alternative to army service.
Titi said he also knows other Muslims who are slowly starting to volunteer.
For such service, Titi and seven other volunteers from across Israel were honored at an annual event Tuesday night for exceptional volunteer service by the Administration for National Civil Service.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) and Science and Technology Minister MK Rabbi Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz (HaBayit HaYehudi) spoke at the program at Binyanei Hauma, in Jerusalem.
The eight volunteers honored are a few of over 14,000 people who are currently enrolled in national service.
Though the majority of national service volunteers are religious young women, anyone exempt from army service can volunteer – including haredim, Muslims, people with mental and physical handicaps, and juvenile delinquents – according to Sar-Shalom Jerbi, director of the Civilian and National Service Authority at the Ministry of Science and Technology.
Rivlin called the National Service Program a “grassroots effort that can change society from below.”
Addressing the volunteers, he called on them to imagine and build a society characterized by equal opportunity, integrity and kindness.
Jerbi told The Jerusalem Post
that devoting time to national service is an opportunity for individuals to feel more connected to Israeli society.
“There should not be a situation where someone wants to volunteer and cannot,” he said. “I see great value in integrating populations of Israeli society that do not enlist in the army – like criminals and mentally and physically disabled persons... So that it will be easier for them to become a part of the workforce,” he said, referring to the professional challenges some of those who do not complete military service are facing.
It is also a chance for different segments of the population who may not otherwise interact to connect with each other, Jerbi said, adding that the Administration for National Civil Service is now creating more programs to facilitate national service for haredim and Arabs.
Indeed, in September, Jerbi said an additional 2,200 volunteer opportunities working with the elderly, children and prisoners – among others – will be added to the current 1,500 spots for Israeli-Arabs.
Timna Rubin, a 20-yearold from Kibbutz Hulata, who was also honored at the ceremony, was exempt from serving in the IDF after being diagnosed with cancer in high school. However, Rubin did not allow the illness to prevent her from serving her country in other ways, she said.
Rubin volunteered at a boarding school for troubled children near
Netanya during her first year of service. The following year, she helped
underprivileged youth develop life skills through physical and mental
activities, such as agriculture, environmental work and caring for
animals at Ori’s Farm in Sdot Micha.
“I learned how much fun it is to give... The place in which I now am is
just amazing,” she said, reflecting on her experience and the ways in
which she has matured.
Rubin said she most enjoyed seeing the changes within the teenagers she
worked with, and has become more time-focused and diligent. She plans to
work on a farm in the Negev before possibly pursuing a career in
Other volunteers honored included Leah Tayeb, of Ra’anana, who
volunteered at the Laniado Hospital in Netanya, and Odiya Chivyon, who
was a member of the Garin Torani in Netivot.
Another honoree, Tzvi Amitai, of Rishon Lezion, was exempt from national
service because he was born with speech problems, but still chose to
volunteer for two years at the Kaplan Hospital in Rehovot.