June 4: Culture of Service

A simple solution is to abolish the draft and make army service or some other form of national service optional, but to combine it with a substantial financial incentive.

Letters 521 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Letters 521
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Culture of service
Sir, – Regarding “Keshev Committee hears proposals for increasing haredi enlistment rates” (June 1), the problem is not limited to the haredi world.
There is the country’s Arab sector, comprising some 20 percent of the population and of which only a small fraction volunteers.
There is also the significant number of secular Jews who find methods to avoid army service.
In fact, the army doesn’t need all this manpower. It certainly does not want reluctant recruits or, even worse, those who have been led to believe that the Jewish state is their sworn enemy.
A simple solution is to abolish the draft and make army service or some other form of national service optional, but to combine it with a substantial financial incentive. Non-military service could range from work in hospitals to assisting teachers or cleaning up our forests, parks and beaches. The list of possibilities is endless.
Accept as the norm for service three years for men and two for women, then calculate subsequent social benefits to a family on the basis of time served. If the parents have accumulated five years of service they would get full allowances. Those with less would have their allowances reduced.
Obviously it would be unfair to establish this retroactively, so it would apply only to those marrying after the new arrangements were in place.
STEPHEN S. COHEN Ma’aleh Adumim
Sir, – Adi Luria, spokeswoman for the National Civil Service Volunteers Association, opposes mandatory national service (“NGO: Don’t force people to do national service,” June 1). Sadly, she has a very parochial view.
Those who would be required to serve would benefit by being more fully integrated into society, thereby recognizing that they have a very real stake in the nation’s future. Also, the stature of the ultra-Orthodox and Arab sectors would be raised in the eyes of the large number of Israelis who feel they do not contribute their fair share. Indeed, it may turn out that fewer people will attempt to shirk their own military duty if they see that, finally, all sectors are being asked to make personal sacrifices.
EFRAIM A. COHEN Zichron Ya’acov
Sir, – What Jay Bushinsky suggests in “Military service for all” (Observations, June 1) is both unworkable and unwise.
Does Bushinsky really believe that an Arab soldier from Umm el-Fahm would carry out an order to kill or capture a terrorist in Jenin, or that a haredi soldier would carry out an order issued by his commanding officer without first checking whether it was in compliance with Halacha? What would be workable and wise, and has worked in America, is a change from a “welfare” system to a “workfare” system whereby the number of financially dependent has been dramatically reduced over the past 20 years. The system requires able-bodied individuals to provide service in order to receive benefits. Many “graduate” to regular-paying jobs.
In Israel, those who are dependent upon the government for benefits should be required to provide national service. In addition, the tens of thousands of secular Jews who avoid military service (about whom we rarely hear), as well as the haredim, could be given added incentives (educational and housing benefits, as well as priority in hiring) in return. This would be similar to the GI Bill in America.
Look inward
Sir, – In your editorial “Glorifying terror” (June 1) you ask why the PA celebrates and glorifies terrorists. Why not ask why we continue to release terrorists or their remains so that they can be so glorified? Do we really hold out hope that something fundamental has changed in Palestinian society? The real issue is why we continue to take actions when all the evidence suggests that we do so only to our detriment.
More on migrants
Sir, – I understand many Israelis are very angry at the African refugees because you are receiving hundreds of migrants across the border every day and don’t know where these people are coming from.
It is true that this is a very complex situation. But I want you to understand that I came from a very bad situation in Darfur and the condition of the Darfurians is getting worse and worse.
If you decide you don’t want Darfurian refugees to stay here in Israel, there is no other place for us to go. If you send us back the Sudanese will kill us.
They kill children who are just three months old and rape and kill our sisters.
When I was 12 I watched my father die in front of me after the Janjaweed shot him. After that, I had no idea where to go.
Fortunately I was able to cross the Egyptian border – where Egyptian soldiers shot me twice – and make it into Israel. I was lucky that the Israelis saved me and even sent me to a high school in Rishon Lezion. I will never forget what the Israeli people have done for me.
Right now I don’t have any communication with my family.
I don’t even know if they are alive or dead. The village that I grew up in is destroyed; nobody lives there now. I don’t know where my family is. The last time I spoke with my mother was in 2008.
I want to work hard in a safe palace to finish my education so I can help myself and my family and other Darfurians who are in the same situation.
My dream is to be a journalist so that I can tell our story to the world.
Please help us solve our problems and give us refugee status.
We are not asking for economic benefits. We are only asking for the opportunity to develop ourselves and strengthen Darfur and Israel.
DIRI ABRAMSON Rishon Lezion The writer is an asylum-seeker
Sir, – With astonishment I have read the recent articles on African migrants in south Tel Aviv and would like the demonstrators who call for mass deportations to ask themselves if they would like to take over the migrants’ jobs.
Instead of raising your voices and smashing shop windows, why don’t you take up a brush and clean chairs for tourists on Tel Aviv beaches? Or get a plastic bag and collect empty beer bottles from the street? Let’s face it: Many in Tel Aviv are pleased with the cheap labor the Africans provide, and silently condone their presence.
I am convinced we can all do with a wee bit more common sense and tolerance.
Have any of you ever spoken to an African migrant, asked about his background, his reasons for coming to Israel? Before judging another person, ask yourself how you would like to be judged. Then open your Torah and look for the chapter that clearly indicates that God is the sole Judge of humanity.
I would like to thank these African migrants for pointing this out.
Rashomon effect
Sir, – My attention has been drawn to an article in your paper titled “When Israel had a champion at the UN” (Comment & Features, May 30).
My late colleague and muchlamented friend Jeane Kirkpatrick certainly deserves our highest gratitude, praise and admiration.
Unfortunately, though, virtually all the references to my person contained in the article were simply inaccurate (if not invented).
For example, and to my profound regret, I do not speak nine languages.
Peter Collier’s references to me are apparently based on secondhand and unchecked information (at best) and constitute a forceful validation of the Rashomon effect.
YEHUDA Z. BLUM Jerusalem The writer is a former ambassador to the UN