Milu’im (Reserve Duty)


Those who serve in the military are owed a great debt of gratitude. In the United States, we are registered for selective service, but most of us have not experienced a draft.

Military service in Israel is mandatory for every man and woman age 18. Men serve three years, women two unless they fulfill combat assignments that require three years as well. For those who become officers, an extra year is required.

In addition to Jewish people, most Druze men and a small number of Bedouin men volunteer for service as well.

However, from all eligible recruits, only 58% serve. Others, like Hassidic, Ultra-Orthodox Jews and practically all Arabs, do not serve. Once upon a time, a person who did not serve was an outcast in Israeli society. Not so today. It has become both commonplace and acceptable.

For the majority that does serve in Israel, after the mandatory period ends, service continues in reserve duty. When called annually, a person has to take time off work, say goodbye to his wife and kids and perform his duty. Others take time off from studying, whether or not exam season is close at hand. Like jury service in the USA, the person continues to be paid during the time taken off from work.

Over the decades, the reserve duty burden has lessened, both in terms of the total number of days a year and the age of service.

Whereas the allure of military service as a whole has decreased among young adults, reserve duty is still a red line many fear to cross. Allow me to elaborate. An employer who fires an employee on reserve duty must pay severance and penalties, and the courts do not take such behavior lightly.

Just today a judgment was rendered against a factory that laid-off an employee who returned from four weeks of active service. They provided no explanation for his firing and paid the compensation ordered by the court. In a public statement they claimed: “We employ many people who serve in Milu’im (reserve duty). We do not discriminate because of service.” They called the incident “singular,” a result of downsizing.

Public image is important, and the citizens are not very tolerant toward disregard for mandatory reserve duty. In fact, the public is even more aware of the importance of annual training after Israel’s very rude awakening during the 2006 Second War in Lebanon.

There is one noticeable exception. In Israel, one continues to college or the university after military service, usually at the age of 20, 21 or 22. Universities in Israel, much like their counterparts in the USA, have become a stronghold-particularly in the non-exact (social, political) sciences and humanities-for very strong anti-Israel bias.

It is difficult to comprehend why Israeli professors call for boycotts against Israel, but they do. They are called “Post Zionists,” and they advocate that in Democracy, and particularly in the Academia, everything is permissible. There are no red lines and no boundaries.

Their number is worrisome, alarming in fact. And they advocate all the supposed, imaginary ills of Israeli military service. Thus, imagine a student who must be absent from lectures and from exams due to reserve duty. They cut such student no slack and do everything possible to make their positions known. The only thing protecting their students from their penalties is the law of the land.

Having no choice in the matter, the universities allow these students the leeway to drop the course altogether (to be taken at a later stage) without losing the paid fees. There are other token “flexibilities” afforded, such as an alternate date for exams, etc.

Is it convenient for the affected students? Not in the least. They leave everything to go to reserve duty, often risking their lives. No one expects gratitude in return for they view it as part of Israeli life and their debt to society. They serve willingly, understanding the importance of their sacrifice. If they do not carry on this duty, who will? However, that does not lessen the difficulties that arise as a result of service.

Unlike them, there are a few attention seekers who prefer to malign Israel. They say they are “breaking the silence,” but what they really do is appear before hostile audiences to defile Israel. They rape their country, mutilate the memory of fundamentals of service and create a new paradigm, one that befits the audiences but does not resemble reality.

Like the professors, they do not mind attacking their homeland. Do they think that by creating a story the audience wants to hear and believe they will somehow be saved from the fate that awaits all Jews, or do they simply enjoy the attention and false honors they receive?

For those attention seeking maligners there are no boundaries, no red lines, only a pretense of “caring.” They manufacture harm and care nothing about who will pay the price. In this respect, they are no different from the professors who use their positions to hurt Israel.

The universities that receive a major portion of their annual funding from the Israeli Government seem to be immune to all-things patriotic. In fact, it is quite amazing that they are more infected than other sectors of society by the spread of the anti-Israel virus and act as carriers of the disease.

Thus, there are professors who actively work against service while Israel does nothing. On the academic side, when an outcry occasionally happens, they gather and unite as an impenetrable wall against anyone who wishes to erode their immunity or dare confront their influence.

“Democracy,” they cry, and let no one past them. “Academic freedom,” they shout, standing ready to attack anyone who dare say a word. They possess the Holy Grail of the Right to Do As You Wish.

When final accounting is made, the role of those who serve on the front line every year and leave their families, place of work or study remains unappreciated, almost unnoticed. On the other hand, those professors and others who claim to be “saving the State of Israel from herself” promote themselves as saviors, like to talk in terms of “I, me and mine” and use all means to achieve their distasteful goals.

A day will come when history will judge those involved. The professors and their cohorts will be remembered for their participation in bringing the downfall of Israel. While the songs and voices of the unsung heroes, the people who act silently, who pay their dues without complaint, will rise and be sung forever.

Unnamed, unappreciated in their day, but in the aggregate all those on reserve duty are owed a deep debt of gratitude.

In the series “Postcards from Israel,” Ari Bussel and Norma Zager invite readers throughout the world to join them as they present reports from Israel as seen by two sets of eyes: Bussel’s on the ground, Zager’s counter-point from home. Israel and the United States are inter-related – the two countries we hold dearest to our hearts – and so is this “point – counter-point” presentation that has, since 2008, become part of our lives.