Gov't bids to get more haredim to serve

Future aim is to create civilian service option for those who don't join army.

soldier haredi 88 ap (photo credit: )
soldier haredi 88 ap
(photo credit: )
The government Sunday called on the army to create more "attractive" frameworks to absorb haredi soldiers and to set up an administration to help place haredim who don't do military service into national service. By approving the recommendations of the Ivri Committee, which was headed by Maj.-Gen. (res.) David Ivri, the government moved a step closer to creating a civilian national service option for those who do not enlist in the IDF. The Ivri Committee was tasked earlier in the year with investigating the status of civilian national service programs in general and specifically with researching the possibility of haredi participation in those programs. The resolution adopted Sunday calls for the establishment within 45 days of an administrator to look for suitable outlets for haredim interested in national service, and called for a minimum of some 200 national service positions to be allocated in the 2006 budget for yeshiva students. The idea is for a centralized civilian national service program to be eventually established, which would involve participation in organizations such as the police, firefighters, MDA and hospitals. This plan, while it calls initially for accommodating yeshiva students, may eventually be expanded to include youth from the Arab sector, conscientious objectors, and people whose medical profiles preclude them from being drafted into the IDF. Among the recommendations of the Ivri Committee was that every graduate of the civilian national service program would receive the same financial benefits granted to IDF veterans, adjusted for their length of service. Sunday's cabinet decision set up a team comprised of representatives from the Justice Ministry, the Finance Ministry, social services, the IDF and the Ivri Committee to determine the financial reimbursement for yeshiva students who choose the national service option. It also called upon the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor to initiate special training courses for yeshiva students who participate in the service option. The decision also called on the Finance Ministry to fund the establishment of a central authority for national service that would be created under the auspices of the Prime Minister's Office. That authority is to submit practical recommendations within 30 days regarding the program's operating budget and legal issues of drafting yeshiva students. The authority will also determine the payment terms for participants in the civilian service plan. According to one proposal, the payment to haredi participants will be similar to that of a non-combat soldier in the IDF who has children. The Ivri Committee proposal comes a week after the state announced that only 139 out of 45,639 haredim of military conscription age have joined the army in the three years since passage of the Tal Law. The law's aim was to increase haredi participation in the army. The Knesset passed the Tal Law in 2002 after the High Court ruled in 1998 that it was not proper for the defense minister to grant deferments to haredim on the basis of secondary legislation. The Knesset committee that drafted the law tried not only to encourage more haredim to join the army, but to leave the yeshivot and join the workforce as well. The law, named after former Supreme Court justice Zvi Tal, who headed a public committee charged with finding a compromise between the haredi and non-haredi communities, states that after at least four years of guaranteed military deferment and study in yeshiva each student between the ages of 23 and 27 may take one year off studies without being drafted. During this so-called "year of decision," the student may join the army, work or learn a trade. If the student decides not to return to the yeshiva, he must perform a truncated compulsory military service and annual reserve duty, and is then free to join the civilian workforce without any further draft obligations. Up until now, however, there was no well-defined public service track. One government official said that had there been a public service option available, many more haredim would have chosen that option rather than the relatively few who chose to go into the army.