Overseas IDF volunteers to be called back for service if they make aliya

In 2007, over 200 Jews from around the world joined Mahal in comparison to 164 the year before.

idf training 224.44 (photo credit: IDF)
idf training 224.44
(photo credit: IDF)
Sixty years after opening its doors to overseas volunteers, the IDF is implementing a significant change in its Mahal volunteer track. Beginning this month the IDF will require Mahal volunteers who make aliya to complete three years of service following their participation in the program. In 2007, over 200 Jews from around the world joined Mahal in comparison to 164 the year before. The number is expected to grow in 2008. Mahal began in 1948 when approximately 3,500 overseas volunteers came from 43 countries to defend Israel in the War of Independence. They were called Mahal from the phrase Mitnadvei Hutz La'aretz, or Volunteers from Abroad. Most were World War II veterans whose military experience and skills were of decisive importance in helping shape and secure the new state. Mahal volunteers serve for 14 months meaning that for those who do make aliya, they would be required to serve another 14 months in the IDF as a regular soldier. IDF sources claimed that this obligation always existed although it was never implemented. The decision to enforce the rule was made after the IDF became aware of growing numbers of Mahal graduates remaining in Israel for university studies and eventually making aliya. The program was initially setup for Jews who would return to the Diaspora following their service. Those Diaspora Jews slated to be drafted into Mahal in July have already been notified of the change. In a related move, the Immigration and Absorption Ministry plans to launch a media campaign in the coming months to attract Israeli citizens living abroad to a special Mahal-Israeli track. The new volunteer track was launched a year ago, but has so far only attracted a handful of Israeli expatriates. The expatriate community is estimated at 700,000, most of which reside in the US.