Exemption from military service in Israel

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Conscription to the Israeli Defense Forces is carried out in Israel in accordance with the Israeli Security Service Law (חוק שירות ביטחון). This law also consists of a set of rules that define in which cases a person would be exempted from security service. In addition, in recent decades, a growing number of Israelis have attempted to get an exemption from the mandatory military conscription through illegal means of deception.

Grounds for exemption[edit]

The Torato Omanuto arrangement provides a legal route whereby most men from the Haredi sector are exempted altogether from compulsory military service, or alternatively get a shortened service (four months).

There are several reasons that confer exemption from military service in Israel to the person involved; some only apply to men, others apply only to women, and others to both sexes. These include:

  • If a person is permanently living abroad, after migrating abroad.
  • 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.[1][2][3]
  • 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.[how?]
  • Some young people are exempted for holding a criminal record.


According to 2007 IDF figures, the largest single group of young (Jewish) Israelis who avoid conscription consists of women who claim exemptions on religious grounds. This group made up 35% of all women eligible for the draft. Amongst males, the overall percentage of non-participation was 27.7%. This figure included 11.2% for Torato Omanuto, 7.3% for medical and psychological grounds, 4.7% because of criminal records and 4.2% because of residing abroad.[4]


Accordance with section 36 of the Security Service Law, the security minister may exempt certain people from an army service in the IDF, for reasons related to the volume of the military forces or reserve forces, or for reasons related to educational needs, settlement needs, security needs, economy needs, family needs and various other reasons.

In accordance with section 5 of the Security Service Law, a medical board is authorized to determine if a candidate is unfit for national security service.

Avoidance of the draft[edit]

Avoidance of the draft means exploiting the legal ways in which an individual can avoid serving in the military, and implementing them in order to be granted a full exemption from military service in the IDF. For example:

  • A 17-year-old girl is considering getting married, and a significant factor in her considerations is the knowledge that as a married person she would be exempt from conscription.
  • A 17-year-old boy who decides to study in a Yeshiva in order to enjoy the exemption he would be given from the IDF which yeshiva students are granted.
  • Requesting an exemption for reasons of conscience. Unlike requests for an exemption to married women and male Yeshiva students, which might not be solely based on the individual's preference not to serve in the military, an exemption for reasons of conscience is made solely with the aim of not serving in the military.

In many cases, an individual might choose to enlist in the military in spite of having some characteristics that exempt him or her from the draft.

In 2005 32.1% of the Jewish females did not enlist in the military on religious grounds, and the overall rate of non-enlist Jewish girls has risen to 42.3%.[5] These high rates indicate that refraining from the draft is relatively common, at least among Israeli women. In 2008, the proportion of females who did not enlist rose to 44%, from which 34.6% did not enlist on religious grounds. As a result, the Israeli military tightened the way it handles cases in which Jewish women request an exemption on religious grounds, through investigating the truthfulness of their claims, in order to expose young women who lied about being religious.[6]

Draft evasion[edit]

Draft evasion means acting in illegal ways in order to avoid serving in the military. The main way of doing so is to create a pretense which grants an individual an exemption from the draft. Examples:

  • Marrying with the sole purpose of receiving the exemption granted to all married women, without any intention of the actual realization of the marriage (usually the female would seek to divorce after being granted the desired exemption).
  • Displaying false medical certificates or pretending to be ill, in order to obtain an exemption based on health reasons.
  • A woman would ask to be exempted for religious reasons, while in real life she is not religious.
  • Leaving Israel before a person gets to the age of recruitment, and not returning to the country despite the attempts of the recruiting office to contact the individual. A common method which the state uses to fight this trend is to avoid extending the validity of a person's passport when it expires.[7]

Section 94 of the Security Service Law describes another method of draft evasion: defecting from the military on the day of recruitment. When a soldier fails to show up to be recruited he is defined by the military as a draft evader. After being defined as a draft evader, an arrest warrant is issued against him and thereafter the military police is responsible for locating and capturing him. After being caught by the military police, it would be decided whether the draft evader would go through disciplinary proceedings (which means that they would get a limited punishment and not a criminal record), or whether he or she would face a military court where the punishment is not limited and the criminal conviction is registered.

Public criticism[edit]

Draft evasion, as a criminal act, is generally considered in a negative light amongst the majority of the Israeli public. Among the strongest opponents to the Israeli government policy, a few people support draft evasion, but they are a minority in the Israeli public.

In Israel, which is largely considered to be in an ongoing state of war, draft evasion has always been perceived negatively by the majority of the public, although since the 1990s and thereafter the disapproval of draft evasion amongst the Israeli public has gradually diminished. After the 2006 Lebanon War the IDF began carrying out media campaigns against draft evasion as well as media campaigns aimed at encouraging enlistment in the IDF, and in the combat units in particular. Among the most notable Israelis to express their disapproval of draft evasion have been the Head of Human Resources Elazar Stern and the Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who stated:

In 1992, the popular Israeli rock singer Aviv Geffen caused a public outrage after he stated that he did not serve in the IDF and encouraged people not to enlist

Public criticism of draft evasion, especially when it is done defiantly, has become very noticeable in the context of the Israeli celebrities and public figures who evaded the draft in their youth (mostly before they became famous). Some of the most notable examples in which Israeli celebrities have been heavily criticized in the Israeli media in this regard include:

  • Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik, who after graduating from the religious high school "Evelina de Rothschild" declared that she is religious and as a result was granted an exemption from military service.
  • In 1992, the popular Israeli rock singer Aviv Geffen caused a public outrage after he stated that he did not serve in the IDF and encouraged people not to enlist. Later on, Geffen changed his statement and claimed that the army dismissed him from service for medical reasons.
  • The popular Israeli model Bar Refaeli, who married a friend of her parents a number of days before her recruitment day, received an exemption from the military, and divorced soon thereafter. In an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth, which was published in early October 2007, Refaeli referred to this matter stating that: "I'm not against the army and I really wanted to serve, but I do not regret that I did not enlist, because this decision has paid off big time" and added, "What does it matter, Uganda or Israel? For me, it does not matter. Why is it good to die for our country? Isn't it better to live in New York? For what reason do children aged 18 need to sacrifice their lives? It makes no sense that people should die so that I can live in Israel.".[9]
  • During the 2000s, The Israeli Singer Jacko Eisenberg stated in an interview in "Yediot Aharonot" that the IDF dismissed him from service, and noted that he did not regret it.
  • The popular Israeli singer Maya Buskila was exempted from a military service in her youth on grounds of her being religious. This fact retrospectively stirred a public outrage after Buskila participated in a swimwear campaign in which she was photographed in a very revealing swimwear. Later on, Buskila expressed her regret for not having enlisted to the military, stating that she did not know she would end up gaining fame and becoming a role model for many young Israeli girls.[10] Eventually Buskila decided to enlist in the military, and on 13 April 2008, at the age of 30, she was drafted for a relative short compulsory service in the IDF.

Impact of draft evasion in Israeli civilian life[edit]

An individual's military service is usually a topic of discussion in many job interviews in Israel, and is information job seekers usually would add to their resume. Nevertheless, in 2003 the Regional Court in Tel Aviv declared that the requirement of military service as a precondition to be hired for a position constitutes discrimination and is forbidden if military service is not relevant for that position.[11] The Israeli Equal Opportunities Act (חוק שוויון ההזדמנויות בעבודה) was revised in the mid 1990s[12] to prohibit employers from asking candidates about their military profile in the IDF. Nevertheless, legally there is as yet no prohibition against questions regarding an individual's military service or the fact that he did not enlist in the military - information which might be used later on as part of the many considerations which would contribute to an interviewer's decision not to hire the individual. In the years, since the Equal Opportunities Act was revised, and despite the changes in the Israeli public regarding military service, there is still largely a negative attitude toward those who have not served in the IDF. As an example, a substantial proportion of the employment ads in the newspapers state explicitly that only candidates who have carried out "full military service" will be considered for that position.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ פירוט של הקושי בהשגת פטור מטעמי מצפון - מתוך דברי הסבר להצעת חוק שירות ביטחון (תיקון - פטור מטעמי מצפון), התשס"ו-2006 [Details of the difficulty in obtaining an exemption for reasons of conscience - from the explanatory notes in the Defense Service Law (Amendment - an exemption for reasons of conscience), 2006] (in Hebrew). 8 May 2006. Retrieved 12 October 2014. 
  2. ^ Felix Frisch (16 June 2003). צה"ל נתן פטור משירות לסרבן מצפון [IDF gave exemption from service to conscientious objector] (in Hebrew). Ynet. Retrieved 12 October 2014. 
  3. ^ Roy Cochavi (1 March 2004). סרבן שירות קיבל פטור מטעמי מצפון [conscientious objector received exemption from reasons of conscience] (in Hebrew). News1. Retrieved 12 October 2014. 
  4. ^ Mijal Grinberg (2007-11-06). "IDF: Nearly 28% of Israeli males avoided conscription in 2007". Haaretz. Retrieved 2012-03-19. 
  5. ^ Hanan Greenberg (24 July 2005). דאגה בצה"ל: הבנות ממעטות להתגייס [Military concern: fewer girls to enlist] (in Hebrew). Ynet. Retrieved 12 October 2014. 
  6. ^ Hanan Greenberg (1 March 2009). זינוק במספר הלא-מתגייסים, בעיקר צעירות [Jump in the number of non-recruits, mainly young] (in Hebrew). Ynet. Retrieved 12 October 2014. 
  7. ^ עת"ם (י-ם) 9050/08 יניב דוד הראל נגד שר הפנים, ניתן ב-25.6.2009[dead link]
  8. ^ Yuni Schoenfeld. ברק: צה"ל הפך לצבא חצי העם [Barak: IDF army became half the people] (in Hebrew). MSN. [dead link]
  9. ^ הרווחתי בגדול שלא התגייסתי [big payoff that I didn't enlist] (in Hebrew). Ynet. 22 October 2007. Retrieved 12 October 2014. 
  10. ^ Moran Zelikovich (1 February 2005). חמישית מהבנים ושליש מהבנות לא מתגייסים מדי מחזור [One-fifth of boys and one-third of girls do not enlist every cycle] (in Hebrew). Ynet. Retrieved 12 October 2014. 
  11. ^ מדינת ישראל נגד תפקיד פלוס בע"מ [State of Israel v. Position Plus Ltd.] (PDF) (in Hebrew). Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, State of Israel. 12 June 2003. Retrieved 12 October 2014. 
  12. ^ חוק שוויון ההזדמנויות בעבודה, התשמ"ח-1988 [Equal Opportunities Act, 1988] (in Hebrew). Hilan. Retrieved 12 October 2014. 

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