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A Few Good Men

Maayan David and Mishpacha Staff

For six decades, Israel has prided itself on its “people’s army,” but in spite of a mandatory draft, only half the country’s young men are conscripted. And while the IDF wants to recruit top personnel, many of those noncombat jobniks are an excess and financial burden. Is phasing out the draft and moving toward a professional army the best way forward?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

When Ronny Yisraeli, aTelAviv high school senior, received his first draft notice he began doing his homework. “Three years of life is no joke,” his father often told him. “You have to make sure to get the best deal for a future career.” By the time he reported to the recruitment office, Ronny had already looked into his choices. The Chavatzelet Plan, offered by Military Intelligence, would enable him to get a bachelor’s degree in sociology and computer science on the army’s account, followed by six years of full army service with top conditions and a marketable career when it’s over. Or maybe he should sign up with Memram, the Center for Computing and Information Services, where he would learn programming, and, after two and a half years of service, could either enter the labor market or continue in a high-tech position within the military. He could also study electrical engineering, funded generously by the Navy, a course that requires a year and half of service after which he could enter civilian life with a desirable degree. Ronny’s options sound more like what he’d find at a US Army recruiting center — where high school graduates are offered opportunities for career advancement within a military framework — than at an IDF draft office. What’s happened to the “people’s army,” Ben-Gurion’s vision of an armed forces as a cultural melting pot where every able-bodied citizen enlists to aid in the defense of the State of Israel? What’s happened is that 66 years after the establishment of the state, almost half of Israel’s draft age men (and almost three-quarters of its women) don’t serve in the IDF — only a quarter of whom opt for a yeshivah deferment. While the army shrinks, the institution is doing its utmost to recruit the top candidates to its ranks.

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