Israeli Arabs at protest in Jaffa R 390.
(photo credit: REUTERS/NIR ELIAS)
Willingness by young Arabs in Israel to volunteer for civilian national service
has steadily fallen over the past six years, as the community’s support for
contributing to national service, a new study to be published Tuesday by Haifa
University’s Jewish-Arab Center has found.
Despite this, researchers
Professor Sammy Smooha and Dr. Zohar Lechtman, who interviewed some 968
Arab citizens of Israel, noted that the actual number of young people from the
community volunteering for national service has actually increased.
on numbers provided by the National Service, which is an alternative to serving
in the IDF, 2399 young Arabs volunteered in 2011, compared to 1050 in 2008 and
240 in 2005.
Smooha and Lechtman, who carried out the study last year
between the summer and fall as part of ongoing research into the general
attitudes of Israel’s 1.5 million Arab citizens, highlighted that even though
the numbers of those willing to volunteer have fallen, the 40% who are
interested in joining is still exceptionally high.
Preparing to present
the full study at a conference at Haifa University on Tuesday, the two academics
said that – despite a fall in public opinion about volunteering for national
service and attempts by the Arab leadership to dissuade young people from
joining – there were still many young people who wanted to give back to their
community and to the country.
According to the data presented in the
study, 40% of young Arabs in Israel are willing to volunteer for national
service, compared to 53% in 2009. In addition, 62% of the Arab community
believes that civilian national service is important, a fall from 68% in 2009
and 78% in 2007.
The researchers also noted that many young Arabs
interviewed for the study (252 of those interviewed were aged between 18 and 22)
said they had been given little information about national service and what
exactly volunteering meant.
“There are many negative voices in Arab
society about joining national service and little outreach has been done to
address this,” said the researchers.
While the focus on the study was on
willingness to volunteer, the researchers also interviewed 154 young people
currently volunteering and 152 who had completed more than six months in
More than 90% of those who had volunteered said they
were satisfied with their experiences and some 95.8% even they were proud they
In addition, 89% said they felt that by volunteering
they had given something back to their own community and 82.4% said they felt
good about giving something back to the country.
The goal of the
multi-year study is to examine the degree of exposure of the Arab sector to
civic service, gauge public opinion toward civic service and monitor changes in
public opinion over the years.