Major Drop Recorded in Number of Secular IDF Draft Dodgers

Haredim make up largest group of Israeli Jews granted draft exemptions, according to official IDF statistics.

The rate at which potential secular and religious Zionist conscripts have been exempted from military service has declined substantially, and the number of actual draft evaders among them has been reduced to negligible levels.

On the other hand, official Israel Defense Forces statistics reveal that more than half of Jewish Israeli men who were exempted from the draft last year were ultra-Orthodox men engaged in religious studies.

The data from the IDF personnel division were contained in a document released last week by the Knesset Research and Information Center. They were also provided to the panel headed by Kadima MK Yohanan Plesner that attempted to develop an alternative to the Tal Law, which provided draft deferments for Haredi yeshiva students. The Supreme Court ruled the Tal Law unconstitutional.

The data show that about 75 percent of 18-year-old Jewish Israeli males were drafted last year. Among the 25 percent who were not drafted, 13 percent were Haredim who received deferments to pursue religious studies.

As recently as 2004, that figured was only 8.4 percent. But it rose to 13 percent in 2009 and has been stable since. The IDF personnel division predicts that the percentage will increase in the coming years if conscription policy does not change.

There has been a major decline in recent years in the numbers of non-ultra-Orthodox draft-age men who have been given draft exemptions. In 2005, the rate was 14.8 percent. It actually rose to a high of 16.3 percent in 2007, but then declined last year to 12.1 percent, following a 2007 IDF campaign against draft evasion.

Brig. Gen. Amir Rogovsky, former head of planning in the IDF personnel division, said the decrease was the result of a decision by the IDF to actively halt the trend of exemptions, after a substantial increase in exemptions for non-religious reasons (primarily for psychological or other medical reasons ).

Of the 12 percent of non-Haredi Jewish males who were exempted from the draft, 3 percent were living abroad; approximately another 3 percent had such low army evaluations that the IDF would not have an interest in drafting them; roughly another 6 percent were exempt for medical reasons, with about an even split between those exempt for psychological reasons and for other medical conditions.

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