Exemption from military service in Israel

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Haredi Jews in Israel who declared that Torah study is their profession were exempt from compulsory military service or served for a short period until the law changed in 2014.[1] Legislation on this has since changed in a way that has been contested by the High Court.[2]

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:

  • Expatriates
  • 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.[3][4][5]
  • 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 avoided conscription consisted 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.[6] In 2014, the law changed such that the majority of the Haredi Jews were no longer exempt from the military service.[1] Another law change to grant exemptions again was contested by the High Court in 2017.[2]


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.

Draft evasion[edit]

In 2005 32.1% of the Jewish women did not enlist in the military on religious grounds, and the overall rate of non-enlisted Jewish women has risen to 42.3%.[7] These high rates indicate that refraining from the draft is relatively common, at least among Israeli women. In 2008, the proportion of women 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.[8]

  • 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 woman 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.[9]

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 censure[edit]

Draft evasion is a criminal act and condemned by the majority of Israelis. Among the strongest opponents to the Israeli government policy, a few people support draft evasion, but they are a minority in the Israeli public. After the 2006 Lebanon War media campaigns were organized against draft evasion and to promote enlistment, especially in combat units. Head of Human Resources Elazar Stern and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were particularly vocal on this subject:

In 1992, Israeli rock singer Aviv Geffen stated that he did not serve in the IDF and encouraged people not to enlist

Israeli celebrities and public figures who evaded the draft in their youth (mostly before they became famous) have been condemned.

  • Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik: After graduating from a religious high school, "Evelina de Rothschild," Itzik declared she was religious and was granted an exemption from military service.
  • In 1992, Israeli rock singer Aviv Geffen stated that he did not serve in the IDF and encouraged people not to enlist. Later, Geffen claimed that the army exempted him from service for medical reasons.
  • Israeli model Bar Refaeli, who married a few days before her recruitment day, received an exemption from the military and divorced soon thereafter. In an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth published in October 2007, Refaeli stated: "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.".[11]
  • During the 2000s, Israeli Singer Jacko Eisenberg stated that the IDF exempted him from service and he did not regret it.
  • Israeli singer Maya Buskila was exempted from a military service on grounds of her being religious. Buskila then participated in a swimwear campaign in which she was photographed in a very revealing swimwear. Later, Buskila expressed regret for not serving, explaining that she did not know at the time that she would become a role model for young girls.[12] 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 on 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.[13] The Israeli Equal Opportunities Act (חוק שוויון ההזדמנויות בעבודה) was revised in the mid 1990s[14] 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. ^ a b "BBC News - Israel ends ultra-Orthodox military service exemptions". Bbc.com. 12 March 2014. Retrieved 17 August 2014.
  2. ^ a b Israel’s Military Exemption for Ultra-Orthodox Is Ruled Unconstitutional, Isabel Kershner, New York Times, Sept. 12, 2017
  3. ^ 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. Archived from the original on 5 November 2013. Retrieved 12 October 2014.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Mijal Grinberg (6 November 2007). "IDF: Nearly 28% of Israeli males avoided conscription in 2007". Haaretz. Retrieved 19 March 2012.
  7. ^ Hanan Greenberg (24 July 2005). דאגה בצה"ל: הבנות ממעטות להתגייס [Military concern: fewer girls to enlist] (in Hebrew). Ynet. Retrieved 12 October 2014.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ עת"ם (י-ם) 9050/08 יניב דוד הראל נגד שר הפנים, ניתן ב-25.6.2009[dead link]
  10. ^ Yuni Schoenfeld. ברק: צה"ל הפך לצבא חצי העם [Barak: IDF army became half the people] (in Hebrew). MSN. Archived from the original on 20 April 2008.
  11. ^ הרווחתי בגדול שלא התגייסתי [big payoff that I didn't enlist] (in Hebrew). Ynet. 22 October 2007. Retrieved 12 October 2014.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ "Archived copy" 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. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 12 October 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ "Archived copy" חוק שוויון ההזדמנויות בעבודה, התשמ"ח-1988 [Equal Opportunities Act, 1988] (in Hebrew). Hilan. Archived from the original on 28 September 2013. Retrieved 12 October 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

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