August 9, 2007:
having a growing problem with draft dodgers. The Israeli armed forces has about
160,000 people on active duty, about 60 percent of those are draftees (men
serving for 36 months, women for 21 months). You get drafted at 18, unless you
have a deferment. For a long time, nearly ten percent of potential draftees
were deferred because they were ultra-orthodox Jews in religious schools. Now
that's up to eleven percent, as more young Orthodox Jews use the religious
study deferment. Moreover, about 25 percent of potential male recruits are
exempt (unless they volunteer) because they are Moslem or Christian. It's easy
for women to get exemptions, and over a third do. As a result, Israel is having
a difficult time keeping its armed forces up to strength.
The problem with the draft
dodgers is that they knowthat Israel
has never been defeated in war, and has been the top military power in the
region for decades. Many young men believe they won't be missed if they manage
to fake their way into an exemption.
The military is taking a
number of measures to deal with the problem, which could mean that the IDF
(Israeli Defense Forces) could be short 50,000 or more troops on mobilization.
Normally, when Israel mobilizes for war, reservists (men serve until age 41,
women until 24) quickly expand the size of the armed forces to 600,000.
First, the military is making
a big deal out of draft dodging, hoping to shame more men into stepping up.
Second, it is allowing more of the minorities, especially those who only serve
if they volunteer, to get into any job they qualify for. In the past, Arabs
were restricted from many fields, because of potential loyalty conflicts in
wartime. But now the military believes they have screening that can detect who
is loyal and who is not.
Finally, the military is
making more of an effort to integrate young recent immigrants into the
military. Because these guys often had not yet mastered the language and
customs, they usually end up in menial jobs. Highly educated conscripts don't
respond well to that, and it's a waste of valuable skills. So the military is
going to give these guys more opportunities, and see how they respond.