(JTA) — The number of Israeli Arabs volunteering for national service has quadrupled since the program first began four years ago.
Israeli officials said the number of Israeli Arab volunteers shot up to 1,050 last year from 240 when the program first opened in 2004, Ynet reported.
"The numbers certainly speak for themselves," said Lior Shohat, the public affairs coordinator in the Administration for National Civil Service. "Currently, the demand is exceeding the amount of vacancies we can offer. I can safely say that if we had more vacancies the number of volunteers would have been much higher."
National service is offered to Israeli Arab youths as a substitute to mandatory military service in the Israel Defense Forces, from which they are exempt.
Since its inception, some Israeli Arab leaders spoke out against participating in the program, saying it is a veiled attempt by the state to erode the community’s sense of unity and assists in maintaining Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.
Those who choose to take part in the program are still a small minority of Israeli Arabs.