Conscription in Israel

IDF recruits during the initial stages of the recruitment process in 2006. After the recruits finish the recruitment process, they begin their basic training.

Flickr - Israel Defense Forces - Trying on Uniforms for the First Time (1)
Flickr - Israel Defense Forces - A New Soldier Packs His Bag

Conscription exists in Israel for all Israeli citizens over the age of 18 who are Jewish, Druze, or Circassian; Arab citizens of Israel are not conscripted. Other exceptions are made on religious, physical, or psychological grounds. The normal length of compulsory service is currently two years and eight months for men (with some roles requiring an additional four months of service), and two years for women.

In 2013, 26% of potential conscripts were exempt from military service: 13.5% for religious reasons, 4% for mental health reasons, 2% for physical health reasons, 3% due to criminal records, and 3% due to residing abroad.[1]

The Israeli Defense Service Law (חוק שירות ביטחון) regulates these duties and exceptions. According to the Defense Service Law, the enlistment to the Israeli Defense Forces is mandatory for all Israeli citizens who have turned 18 (with the above-mentioned exemptions enshrined in the Defense Service Law).

Military service obligation

Officers in reserve duty before parachuting exercise. Reserve service may continue until the age of 51[2]

In 1949, after the founding of the State of Israel, the Defense Service Law gave the IDF the authority to enlist any citizen. Draftees would then be required to show up for the draft in accordance with the military's decision to enlist them. Under this law, the period of service for men was 30 months and for women 18 months (although in accordance with a temporary order from January 10, 1968, six additional months were added to the mandatory service, 36 months for men and 24 months for women respectively.) The service for men has been reduced to 32 months since 2015.

The draft requirement applies to any citizen or permanent resident who has reached the age of 18, and in accordance with the law, the individuals who are exempt from the draft are dismissed for various reasons, such as incapability, medical problems, military personnel needs, etc. Many of the soldiers who complete their mandatory military service are later obligated to serve in a reserve unit in accordance with the military's needs.

Economic constraints on the IDF have caused them to reconsider their structure and slowly shift towards a more modern military. A shift towards a professional militia has caused the IDF to adopt more career-oriented attributes, thus becoming more selective than in prior years. Instead of focusing on “role expansion,” Israel, most specifically its government, is focusing on “nation building.”[3] One of the most extraordinary recent developments is a focus on inclusivity of gay[4] and especially disabled citizens.[5]

Medical profiles

The IDF determines a medical profile for each soldier; according to that profile, the army decides where to assign the draftees. The highest medical profile draftees serve in the five infantry Brigades, Field/Combat Intelligence units, and Combat engineers. The second highest medical profiles are assigned to serve in the Armoured Corps, Artillery, Military Police, Border Police, and Aman. The lowest acceptable level of medical profiles are drafted into the combat support and combat service support Arms, such as the Adjutant Corps, Logistics Corps, and the Ordnance Corps. Draftees with lower than acceptable profiles (Profile 21) and draftees diagnosed as not suitable for military service are fully exempted from military obligations. The highest profile is 97.

Exemption from service

Although the conscription is officially compulsory, in practice a significant percentage of the population does not enlist for various reasons. Among other things, recent decades have seen a growing, but still very rare, phenomenon of draft dodging from military service, mainly due to conscience or political reasons (See Refusal to serve in the Israeli military). Exemptions have come under attack on grounds of fairness, and also because of a perceived shortage of combat personnel.[6]

Yeshiva students who declare that "Torah study is their artistry" (Torato Omanuto) (תורתו אומנותו) can delay their conscription as long as they continue their studies, under the so-called Tal Law. In practice, many of them end up never serving at all. This is a very controversial issue in Israel and key component of religious relations in Israel. Several attempts were made to change the practice, notably the establishment of the Tal committee in 1999, which led to the Tal Law, implemented in 2002. Yet the Torato Omanuto exemption continued largely unchanged. The Tal Law was later ruled unconstitutional in its current form, and a replacement is needed before August 2012.[7] Most beneficiaries of this exemption are Haredi Jews. Members of the Religious Zionist sector often serve within a separate system called Hesder which combines advanced Talmudic studies with military service in the Israel Defense Forces. The IDF also tends to make the military service easier for recruits at an older age and recruits with families, as well as athletes and musicians of note.

From time to time a public debate emerges in Israel around the issue of exemption from military service in Israel.[8]

A basic law of Israel is the Israeli Defense Service Law. It lists the guidelines and regulations of mandated military service in Israel. Some regulation includes age, duties, service requirements, time of service, etc. Chapter 5: Reserve Service: Going Abroad covers the rules and requirements for going on becoming a temporary reserve and going abroad. (a) A person designated for defense service and a person of military age who belongs to the regular forces of the Israel Defense Forces shall not go abroad unless granted a permit from the Minister of Defense. (b) A person of military age the continuance of whose regular service has been deferred for any reason shall not go abroad during the period of deferment save under a permit from the Minister of Defense. (c) A permit under this section may be unconditional or subject to conditions, including a condition relating to the holder's stay abroad. (e) Where any of the conditions of the permit is not fulfilled, the Minister of Defense may revoke the permit and may direct him, by order, to return to Israel within the time prescribed in the order. (f) The Minister of Defense shall not exercise his power under subsection (e) before he has given the holder of the permit an opportunity to state his case to him.[9]

The IDF had strict restraints on letting individuals go into the reserves, even if just temporarily because of their high risk of attack from neighboring states. Through the dissolution of partnerships and peace treaties in recent years, that threat has reduced considerably.[10] Consequently, the high demand for IDF soldiers has slightly decreased as well.

Policy regarding various specific population groups

  • The IDF does not conscript Arab citizens of Israel who are Muslim or Christian, however, increasing numbers choose to volunteer for military service. Many Bedouins enlist on a voluntary basis. For Druze and Circassian men, enlistment is mandatory.[11]
  • Yeshiva students who declare that "Torah study is their profession" (Torato Omanuto) (תורתו אומנותו) could delay their conscription as long as they continue their studies, under the so-called Tal Law until it has been cancelled.
  • Female draftees who state that they maintain a religious Jewish way of life are exempt from military service, and many of them choose to volunteer for an alternative national service called Sherut Leumi.
  • Male members of the Religious Zionist sector often serve within a separate system called Hesder which combines advanced Talmudic studies with military service in the Israel Defense Forces. They normally serve for a year and four months instead of three years.
  • Draftees who state that they are pacifists are required to appear before a committee tasked with examining the credibility of their claim. Exemption from service is granted if the committee is persuaded that their pacifism is sincere and meets the agreed criteria. Only a few individuals each year are granted an exemption on grounds of pacifism; all other self-declared pacifists are required to enlist.
  • Immigrants who immigrate to Israel at the age of recruitment get various concessions in their military service.
  • Draftees with a physical disability which are exempt from military service may still volunteer to serve. It can be a symbolic service of four hours a day, but they might also end up serving in full-time military service.
  • Leading active athletes might in many cases be granted an "Outstanding athlete" status which allows them to get a more convenient and shorter service, so they can continue to develop their career and represent Israel abroad in international competitions. The "Outstanding athlete" status is given only to athletes competing in Olympic sports.[12] In addition, the military also grants the similar "Outstanding dancer" status and an "Outstanding musician" status. This status is granted in the same way and after the individuals have been examined. They may also be granted a more convenient service so that they can continue to improve their abilities and career during military service.

Draft process

The military draft process occurs in the following steps: The Army calls upon a potential soldier in a letter and this is called the "First Calling" or Tzav Rishon. This letter states that the teenager must report to a certain place at a certain time for a day-long examination and interviewing. After careful looking over of the Tzav Rishon's results the army will call the people to enlist when they turn a certain age to begin the army process and basic training.


There are various routes which allow the draftees to postpone the date of recruitment. An automatic postponement is granted for student to graduate from high school. Additional routes which lead to the postponing of the recruitment:

  • Volunteering for a one-year service in a youth organization.
  • Postponement of conscription due to the IDF needs, usually due to a course beginning in a date which occurs later than the original drafting date given to the draftee.
  • Postponement of conscription due to various personal reasons.
  • One can postpone the draft in a year in order to go to Torah studies.
  • One can postpone the draft as part of the Hesder agreement.

Academic programs

  • Academic Reserve - a program designed to enlist and train soldiers which have an academic background in fields vital to the military's needs.
  • Talpiot program - an elite training program for young people who have demonstrated outstanding academic ability in the sciences, physics and mathematics. Graduates of the Talpiot program pursue higher education while serving in the army, and then utilize their expertise to further IDF research and development.
  • The pilot course also offers a Tal college degree.
  • The Israeli Naval Academy (קורס חובלים), whose candidates study for a degree from the Haifa University during the course.

Incompatibility and adjustment difficulties

During the drafting process sometimes draftees get exempted from the draft because of incompatibility. Sometimes the incompatibility of an individual is determined later on during his or her military service, and leads to dismissal from the army. The incompatibility may stem from various reasons:

  • Criminal record or history of using drugs.
  • Low motivation to serve.

When there is a surplus of recruits, the military often raises the threshold required of recruits, and grants an exemption due to incompatibility to a much larger number of recruits. In addition, there is a widespread phenomenon of granting exemption from military service because of incompatibility to female candidates who were identified as having a low medical profile and/or low motivation to serve. In such cases the reason for the exemption would usually be stated as: "Excess of female recruits."

The IDF can also determine that a draftee has adjustment difficulties. A soldier with adjustment difficulties would not serve as a combat soldier.


A draftee found unfit for military service may still choose to volunteer for military service; his status will be similar to all the other draftees found to be fit for service. Once enlisted, these volunteers cannot choose to quit the military early.[13]

Civilian national service

There is an alternative voluntary civilian national service in Israel for those that cannot or do not wish to serve in the Israel Defense Forces. Most participants are Jewish women from the Religious Zionist sector.


The IDF has reportedly concluded that it will, at some point in the future, have to end conscription in favor of an all-volunteer force. Reasons include growing unpopularity of military service among Israeli youth, a growth in draft-dodging, and budgetary constraints that would prevent the IDF from conscripting all those eligible even if draft-dodging were not an issue. Israel is reportedly studying how the United States and European nations ended conscription and transitioned to all-volunteer forces, for a possible future transition.[14]

See also


  1. ^ "Number of IDF recruits to hit 20-year low in 2013". 2013.
  2. ^ Israel Defense Forces (IDF)—An IntroductionJewish Virtual Library
  3. ^ Cohen, S. A. (1995). "The Israel Defense Forces (IDF): From a "People's Army" to a "Professional Military"-Causes and Implications". Armed Forces & Society. 21 (2): 237–254. doi:10.1177/0095327x9502100205.
  4. ^ Lavers, Michael K. (20 April 2017). "New group defends integrated Israel military". Washington Blade: Gay News, Politics, LGBT Rights. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  5. ^ Eisenbud, Daniel K. "11 soldiers with disabilities sworn into IDF". The Jerusalem Post.
  6. ^ Amos Harel (2012-02-24). "IDF facing shortage of new soldiers". Haaretz. Retrieved 2012-03-19.
  7. ^ Yair Ettinger and Gili Cohen (2012-02-21). "Israel's High Court rules Tal Law unconstitutional, says Knesset cannot extend it in present form". Haaretz. Retrieved 2012-03-19.
  8. ^ Balmer, Crispian (2 March 2014). "Ultra-Orthodox Jews stage mass protest against Israeli draft law". Thomson Reuters. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  9. ^ "Israel Defense Service Law (1986)". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 2016-08-31.
  10. ^ Cohen, Stuart A. (1995). "The Israel Defense Forces (IDF): From a "People's Army" to a "Professional Military"-Causes and Implications". Armed Forces & Society. 21 (2): 237–254. doi:10.1177/0095327X9502100205.
  11. ^ Kershner, Isabel (2012-06-29). "Israeli Coalition Divided on Military Conscription". The New York Times.
  12. ^קריטריוניםלספורטאיםמצטיינים.doc
  13. ^ פסק-דין בתיק בג"ץ 7350/08
  14. ^ "Morale: Israel Considers Cancelling Conscription". 2015-01-15. Retrieved 2016-08-31.

External links

Emmanuel Halperin

Emmanuel Halperin (Hebrew: עמנואל הלפרין‎; born 1943) is an Israeli journalist, Television Presenter, and editor. Likewise, a Lecturer, and a Theatre and Television Actor. Halperin is best known in Israel for his role as one of the main presenters of the nightly News program MeHayom LeMahar, earning the reputation of a news and culture analyst legend, and a culture icon.

Exemption from military service in Israel

Exemption from military service in Israel is covered by the Israeli Security Service Law (חוק שירות ביטחון) which states the grounds for exemption from serving in the Israel Defense Forces Exemptions are given based on the following criteria:


Medical or psychological reasons

Marriage, pregnancy or parenthood (for women only), in accordance with section 39 of the Security Service Law.

Exemption for religious reasons (for women only), in accordance with sections 39 and 40 of the Security Service Law.

Exemption on grounds of conscience. It is a relatively rare exemption, which is granted to both women and men who are usually ordered to spend a sentence in the military jail before being granted this exemption.

Studying in a Yeshiva might allow the postponement of the recruitment in six months, and after that one might more easily be granted a postponement for an additional six months and so on, without any limitations, as long as the student continues his studies in the Yeshiva (for men only). This exemption is called Torato Omanuto and is enshrined in the Tal Law.

Religious Israeli Druze citizens are exempt from conscription.

Arab citizens of Israel are also exempted.

Some young people are exempted for holding a criminal record.

Index of Israel-related articles

The following is an alphabetical list of articles related to Israel.

Infected Mushroom

Infected Mushroom are an Israeli musical duo formed in Haifa in 1996 by producers Erez Eisen and Amit Duvdevani. They produce and perform psytrance, electronica, and psychedelic music. They are one of the best-selling groups in Israeli music history in terms of both domestic and international sales.They employ a variety of musical sources, including acoustic guitars and complex synthesized basses. Their compositions often contain changes of drum beat and tempo. Infected Mushroom's live shows feature vocals and analogue instruments in performances that are set against a multimedia backdrop.

Israeli Defense Service Law

The Israeli Security Service Law, also known as the Israeli Defense Service Law, regulates conscription into military service for citizens of Israel. The Security Service Law replaced the Security Service Act of 1949, which made conscription a national routine rather than only requiring military draft during national security emergencies.

New Profile

New Profile (פרופיל חדש) is a movement for transforming Israeli society into a "civilian" one ("חברה אזרחית" – a term recently coined by parts of the Israeli left wing to highlight their view of the present society as "recruited" or "militarized"). It is a voluntary organization that acts against the compulsory law of military enlistment and supports people who refuse to enlist in the Israel Defense Forces.

New Profile is a feminist organization and most of its activists are women.

Profile 21

Profile 21 (Hebrew: פרופיל 21‎) is a medical profile code used by the military of Israel to classify Israelis who are deemed to have physical or psychological disabilities, making them permanently unfit for military service.

Additionally, Profile 24 is a code used to classify those who are deemed temporarily unfit for military service. Those with this classification will generally be reclassified within a year as either fit for military service or as Profile 21.

Individuals with Profile 21 can still apply to volunteer for service in the IDF. The application process takes several months, and acceptance is not guaranteed. Once accepted however, the individuals would be upgraded to Profile 30, and are expected to serve at least 24 months, usually in rear-echelon positions close to home, and exempt from full basic training and rotational duties. Volunteering with Profile 21 is possible up to the age of 28 for men and 22 for women.In recent years some Israelis have begun to use Profile 21 as a means of avoiding conscription, which is universal in Israel. This usually takes the form of deliberately failing medical exams so as to appear unfit for military service. Most often, recruits or soldiers pretend to be mentally ill, due to very few individuals receiving Profile 21 on a non-psychological basis.

Soldiers who have already been recruited by the IDF may see a psychologist, called Ktzin Bri'ut Ha'Nefesh (kaban, lit. "Mental Health Officer"), who is authorized to refer the soldier to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist is then able to recommend Profile 21.

There are a number of problems in civilian life for soldiers who are deemed unfit for military service with Profile 21. Previously, most employers, especially when hiring employees without experience, looked to the employee's service records to evaluate their work ethic and potential. In 1994 such behavior was made illegal (although some private companies still do so), however, a soldier exempt from the army on Profile 21 receives an exemption certificate instead of a discharge certificate, allowing employers to find out whether they have been classified as such. Persons with Profile 21 with mental illness as the reason may not acquire a driver's license for a public vehicle in Israel (e.g. an ambulance). Many governmental and/or civilian jobs (mainly security guards and personnel) cannot be attained by those with Profile 21.

Refusal to serve in the IDF

Refusal to serve in the IDF is when citizens of Israel refuse to serve in the Israel Defense Forces or disobey orders on the grounds of pacifism, antimilitarism, religious philosophy or political disagreement with Israeli policy such as the occupation of the Palestinian territories. Conscientious objectors in Israel are known as sarvanim (in Hebrew סרבנים) which is sometimes translated as "refuseniks", or mishtamtim (evaders, dodgers).

Sherut Leumi

Sherut Leumi (Hebrew: שירות לאומי‎, lit. National Service) is an alternative voluntary national service in Israel for those that cannot or do not wish to serve in the Israel Defense Forces. The majority who receive an exemption from the obligatory army service are Jewish women from the Religious Zionist sector, and they receive it by declaring religious observance, as they maintain that a large number of religious observances for women cannot be upheld in the military, such as dress codes and modesty issues. However, there are also a small number of men who serve in Sherut Leumi. Volunteers are between the ages of 18 and 21. Sherut Leumi gives young women (and occasionally young men) exposure to a number of environments in Israeli society. Service typically requires working 30–40 hours/week over 12 to 24 months. Volunteers have the option of doing either one or two years of the National Service. Not all volunteers are Israeli citizens. It can be done on a tourist visa, and the volunteer will later receive a special volunteer visa that lasts as long as the person will be doing their service.

Young people in other sectors of Israeli society receive exemptions from the military. These include mainly Haredi men who maintain that Torah study is the main practice for defending Israel; they are exempted under the Torato Omanuto arrangements. Arab citizens of Israel are also exempted, in order to avoid a conflict between allegiance to their country and to their Arab brothers (a decision originally taken by Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion). Historically, very few did, but in recent years, the number of Arab youths volunteering for national service has increased. Some Israeli conscientious objectors who object to serving in the army, but are not eligible for an exemption, have voiced a wish to do an alternative form of national service instead.

In 2012, after much discussion and debate, Israel's cabinet extended military service exemption for 1,300 Haredi Yeshiva students as part of the "Shirut Le'umi Mishmar". This allows Yeshiva students to join national service, as opposed to joining the IDF. As part of the scheme, the defense minister is obliged to postpone the military service of Yeshiva students approved for national civil service, and who are at least 26 years old, or are at least 22 years old and have at least one child.

Status quo (Israel)

In Israel, the term status quo (or the secular–religious status quo) refers to the political understanding between religious and secular political parties not to alter the communal arrangement in relation to religious matters, in a predominantly secular population. The established Jewish religious communities in Israel desire to maintain and promote the religious character of the state, while the secular community wishes to reduce the impact of religious regulations in their everyday lives. Occasionally, one political side seeks to make changes to inter-communal arrangements, but these are often met by fierce political opposition from the other side. The status quo preserves the established religious relations in Israel, and only small changes are usually made.

Tal Committee

The Tal Committee was an Israeli public committee appointed on 22 August 1999 which dealt with the special exemption from mandatory military service in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) given to Israeli ultra-Orthodox Jews, as well as extending mandatory military service to Israeli-Arabs. The committee was appointed by Prime Minister Ehud Barak and was initially headed by former Supreme Court Justice Tzvi Tal. The committee was later headed by Yohanan Plesner before its official dissolution on 2 July 2012, two days before submitting its report, hence the term Plesner Committee.

Based on the committee recommendations, on 23 July 2002 the Knesset passed the temporary Tal Law, which expired after five years and was renewed. The law authorises a continuation of the exemption to yeshiva students subject to the conditions within the law. According to the law, at the age of 22, yeshiva students have a "decision year" and can choose between one-year civilian national service alongside a paying job or a shortened 16-month military service and future service in the reserves as an alternative to continuing to study.

Five motions against the law were filed with the High Court of Justice claiming it violated the principle of equality. In 2005, the state admitted, in a response to a Supreme Court petition, that the Tal Law had failed to change enlistment arrangements for ultra-Orthodox Jews, as only a few dozen had enlisted in the army as a result. The law was then extended in 2007 for another five years. On 21 February 2012, the High Court ruled that the law is unconstitutional.

Torato Umanuto

Torato Umanuto (Hebrew: תורתו אומנותו‎, IPA: [toʁaˈto ʔumanuˈto], lit. "Torah study is his job") is a term used to describe a special arrangement for the Israeli haredi sector. This arrangement allows young men enrolled in haredi yeshiva academies to complete their studies before their conscription in the Israeli Defense Forces. Conscription is normally compulsory for each Israeli citizen from 18 years of age, except Israeli Arabs, and lasts three years for men and two for women.

Haredi Jews maintain that the Torah studying practice (or reciting), when practiced by great Torah scholars or their disciples, is crucial in defending the state of Israel and its people, as if it was an additional "praying division" of the Israeli army. In practice, the Torato Umanuto arrangement provides a legal route whereby Haredi Rabbis and their disciples can either enroll for a shortened service period (4 months), or be exempted altogether from compulsory military service.

The source of the phrase

Torato Umanuto is taken from the Talmud:

"For it was taught: If companions [scholars] are engaged in studying, they must break off for the reading of the shema, but not for prayer. R. Johanan said: This was taught only of such as R. Simeon b. Yohai and his companions, whose Torah study was their occupation."

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