Olmert promotes civilian national service

Israel set up a government administration for non-military national service.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office announced this week that it had formed an administration to accommodate Israelis who, upon reaching draft age, prefer a civilian version of national service to the standard military conscription.

The administration, which begins operations next year, will mostly cater to Israeli Arabs, fervently Orthodox Jews and draft-age youths who cite personal or political reasons for not wanting to wear a uniform. It is expected to offer them options such as community service or medical posts, with similar commitment periods and benefits as conscripted soldiers.

Israelis who do national service enjoy later perks such as tax breaks and student stipends. The civilian service route will also allow those Israelis who avoid the military to also avoid being branded as shirkers.

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