Israel Service Bill Safeguards Religious Environment for Girls

The National Service Bill, which aroused the protest of ultra-Orthodox elements in Israel even prior to its introduction in Parliament, provides ample safeguards for a religious environment and way of life for the girls in the national service, it was pointed out here today. It also provides for the exemption from all forms of national service of those Orthodox girls whose family background and way of life does not permit them to leave the home environment even for a day’s work.

The bill stipulates that girls from the age of 18 to 26, unmarried, who are exempt from regular military conscription on religious grounds, be drafted into national service for a 24 month period, the length of the regular military conscription for women. The health standard for the national service conscription will be the same as for military service.

The national service under this bill will include work in religious agricultural settlements, immigrant camps, transitory immigrant settlements, educational, medical and social welfare institutions. Special inspectors in the manpower department of the Ministry of Labor will decide the type of work and place of employment of each girl.

Every effort will be made to station the girls as near home as possible, thereby permitting them to sleep at home after their day’s work, it was stated. The bill also assures a religious way of life for those who will be employed in religious settlements as well as for those outside them.

Special exemption committees will be set up to examine applications for complete exemption from national service on family, educational or economic grounds, or because of a particular Orhthodox way of life of the applicant under review. Women exempted from military service before the national service law comes into force will not be affected by the new act.

Pro-government circles pointed out today that for some time there has been vigorous objection to the complete exemption of girls who claim conscientious grounds for exemption. “The great pressure on Israel’s manpower in the light of security needs has inevitably reduced the manpower available for other urgent tasks, such as absorption of immigrants, health services, etc.,” they pointed out. “While Orthodox girls might be justified in claiming exemption from military service, whereas all other girls spend two years in such service, they could at least be expected to render national service of a non-military character under conditions which could not possibly offend their susceptibilities of conscience,” they declared.

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