President Reuven Rivlin urged the Arab citizens of Israel on Sunday to enlist for National Service, a civilian arm that recruits young adults for a year or more service to the country, instead of doing military service.
Many of Israel’s observant Jewish girls volunteer for National Service, and according to director-general Sar-Shalom Jerbi, some 4,500 Israeli Arab citizens are also participating in the program.
National Service volunteers are found in nearly every agency, school, and hospital throughout the country. They act as tutors, counselors, mentors and assistants in any place they are needed. During times of high tension in particular, their presence is especially important.
There are precious few volunteers that speak Arabic fluently, who can provide qualified assistance in schools and clinics in the Israeli Arab sector; an increase in National Service volunteers for this sector would be invaluable.
But Rivlin would like to see those numbers increase, and this weekend urged the country’s Israeli Arab population to allow its young high school graduates to sign up, despite political disagreements.
The president said at a ceremony in the presidential residence in Jerusalem held to recognize outstanding national service volunteers, “We are one society, and we all live in one country; we are mutually responsible for one another.”
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel is also responsible for the program. At the ceremony he underlined the importance of those serving in National Service, saying their contribution is no less than that of the soldiers serving in the IDF and other security forces.
Those who serve in National Service are deemed eligible for most of the benefits granted to veterans of the military upon completion of their service.