Has the decision to change the Tal Law and draft yeshiva students into the IDF or national service already had an effect? Numbers released by the National Civil Service Administration show that in June alone, 159 chareidi students applied for national service placements, a 50% rise compared to the corresponding month in 2011 and double the total number who had volunteered for national service by April 2012.
On Wednesday alone, 77 young charedim volunteered for national service, a record daily – as well as monthly – number of charedi applications for national service.
In April 2011, a total of 43 young charedim signed up for national service. In May, another 80 registered, followed by 74 in June. Since then, the numbers stayed fairly steady through April 2012, when 72 charedim volunteered to do national service.
Starting in May, when the new coalition government declared its intention to make military or national service mandatory for all sectors of society, there was a marked increase in the number of charedim applying for national service placements. By the end of May, 103 had volunteered, followed by the 159 new volunteers in June.
The National-Civil Service Administration explains that new volunteers are “drafted” in groups once a month. Anyone who volunteers at the beginning of July will begin his or her service in August. The administration attributes the sudden interest in national service volunteerism to uncertainty among yeshiva students about their chances of being “saved” from military service once the Tal Law is no longer in effect.
Some claim that the chareidim are concerned about possible changes to the national service movement itself that might not be to their benefit, and therefore are trying to get in under the wire.
Despite the growing number of charedi volunteers, the administration’s director-general, Sar-Shalom Jerbi, this week sent a letter to Deputy Attorney-General Mike Blass warning that the lack of certainty could have severe ramifications for the national service structure and asking that “urgent decisions be made regarding the transition period until the status quo is changed.”
Jerbi’s letter asked the government to settle such issues as whether national service could continue accepting volunteers referred by the IDF starting in July; whether boys referred by the IDF could be turned away from national service; and whether an additional start date for national service could be added in July.
Regarding the jump in volunteers, Jerbi said: “The high number of volunteers shows that the dialogue with the haredi society spearheaded by the administration is bearing fruit. The charedi society is putting its faith in a voluntary framework for national service in a range of fields, for the benefit of the community and Israeli society.”
“This trend will continue,” Jerbi declared.