Youths discouraged from going to pre-military academies

The Defense Ministry, IDF trying to curb steady increase of Israeli youngsters who prefer to postpone military service.

IDF soldiers marching  (R) 311 (photo credit: Reuters)
IDF soldiers marching (R) 311
(photo credit: Reuters)
The IDF and Defense Ministry are trying to curb the steady increase in the number of Israeli youth who prefer to postpone their military service and spend a year in a pre-military academy.
The Defense Ministry has even come up with some innovative ways of trying to convince high school students that they cannot go to pre-military academies.
In one case, a student at a pluralistic school in the center of the country was told that he could not go to a religious academy since he did not take the full Talmud matriculation exam.
The IDF said it did not require specific matriculation requirements from applicants to academies, but Rabbi Moshe Hager, head of the pre-military academy in Yatir, said that this tactic had been used in the past.
Students usually study for a year in the academies and then enlist in the IDF for three years of service, mostly in combat units.
Hager said that the Defense Ministry’s Civil-Security Department was working to cut down the number of soldiers who postpone their service due to a shortage in IDF manpower.
According to Hager, there are currently 2,500 students in pre-military academies, with about half in religious institutions, and the other half in secular academies.
“The number of applicants has grown steadily over the years and we forecast a 15 percent increase in 2012,” Hager said.
“The Defense Ministry is preventing us from growing under the claim that the students are needed immediately for military service.”
Defense officials confirmed they were looking for ways to increase the number of draftees, but also stressed the importance of the pre-military academies.
According to the IDF, about 25% of youth dodge the draft annually, most of them haredi youth.
Hager said that if the Defense Ministry prevented high school graduates from studying in pre-military academies, the religious students would then go to hesder yeshivot, which is a five-year program that includes just 16 months of military service.
“The IDF will lose out since the religious youth have an alternative and could go to hesder yeshivot, and then they will serve for less,” he said. “The secular youth don’t have an alternative, and they will lose out on the educational experience of studying in an academy.”