A day before the Knesset was slated to vote on the universal draft law for the ultra-Orthodox, newly released documents revealed on Tuesday an elite national service program for Haredi men.
The government bill will reportedly introduce a “security-civilian” national service track, which will absorb select ultra-Orthodox men into Israel’s top national security forces. The program will offer higher stipends and benefits to participants than comparable national service options, Haaretz reported.
The organizations that will incorporate these volunteers include the Israel Police, fire department, Israel Prison Service, Shin Bet security service, Mossad, witness protection program, Magen David Adom, and the Environmental Protection Ministry.
In addition, up to 100 volunteers in the Haredi organizations United Hatzalah and ZAKA will be considered “security-civilian” recruits. Those that commit to serve in the organizations as part of their national service will be eligible to receive a NIS 4,000 ($1,150) monthly salary, scholarships, and additional financial benefits.
Conscripts will have to work 36 hours weekly for the course of two years, and must serve in uniform.
“The most significant part of the new draft law is the security-civilian track,” Sar-Shalom Jerby, head of the National Service Administration, said.
“The goal is that they will work in the [security] corps, rather than in administrative positions. Positions where the men will wear uniforms, will carry weapons, will be police assistants. We fought hard for this. At first the police opposed it, but in the end we managed to push it forward,” he said.
Once the police approved the move, the National Service Administration demanded of the Finance Ministry higher salaries for the volunteers, Jerby said.
The Knesset is slated to vote on the revolutionary enlistment bill on Wednesday at 10 a.m. The conscription bill drew mass protest rallies from the Haredi public, both in Israel and the US. On March 2, hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox held a prayer rally in Jerusalem, halting traffic and shutting down the city for hours. On Sunday, thousands of American ultra-Orthodox Jews publicly opposed the impending bill on the streets of lower Manhattan.
Under the bill, ultra-Orthodox men between the ages of 18 and 24 would be able to claim draft exemptions from national service, one year at a time. Draft quotas would be determined by the number of eligible ultra-Orthodox men under the age of 24. A three-year transition period will begin once the Knesset approves the bill. During those three years, a target will be set for the number of ultra-Orthodox enlistees each year. The target number will rise each year until 2017, when it will reach 5,200 new Haredi enlistees.The bill was approved by the Shaked Committee in its latest draft on February 18.
Haredi MKs, as well as President Shimon Peres, have publicly opposed the criminal sanctions for draft dodgers that the bill provides.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.