Kibbutz Movement, IDF Battle Over Volunteers

The operations department of the Kibbutz Movement levies fees and uses them to defray its own costs.

The Kibbutz Movement is illegally charging the educational and welfare institutions where teenagers work during their one-year service programs through the movement. The operations department of the Kibbutz Movement levies the fees and uses it to defray its own costs. The payment violates the Defense Ministry regulations governing the volunteer program.

About 700 high school graduates volunteer every year, through the Kibbutz Movement, for a year of service. They receive a one-year draft deferment through the social department of the Defense Ministry. It grants volunteer quotas to various organizations that in turn assign the service-year volunteers to various positions.

kibbutz - Gil Eliyahu - June 20 2011
Gil Eliyahu

The Kibbutz Movement is the leading organization through which service-year participants volunteer. The Operations Department, which is headed by Yoel Marshak, charges the institutions benefiting from the volunteers NIS 1,500 for each one who receives an assignment.

The Defense Ministry's social department investigated the matter after receiving complaints from institutions who had first asked the Kibbutz Movement to stop charging the fees.

Officials in the Kibbutz Movement said that all the money from the fees is used to encourage volunteerism and to fund the costs of matching the volunteers with their assignments. They said that unlike the youth movements participating in the service year program, the Operations Department does not receive special funding from the Education Ministry. Therefore, it had no choice but to charge a fee.

The Kibbutz Movement issued the following response: "The framework for conscripting volunteers for a service year and their work in locations throughout the country has been carried out by us through explicit approval of the Defense Ministry for more than 20 years. The fee for the service year volunteers is used only for the close supervision of the 700 volunteers throughout the year, for attracting more volunteers, for public relations, for selection of volunteers and for training throughout the year. The service year volunteers do important work with children and youth who are at risk and immigrant youth, they help with rehabilitation, work in environmental NGOs and in communities in the periphery."

During the past year the Israel Defense Forces decided not to increase the number of draft deferments it issued for service-year volunteers in the Nahal and military preparatory academies. The decision was a response to a decline in draft classes. In the past decade the number of applications for deferment, whether for volunteer work or studym, has risen.

The recently appointed head of the IDF Personnel Directorate, Maj. Gen. Orna Barbivai, announced last week that the army would nevertheless endeavor to increase the number of service-year slots.

MK Miri Regev said she will bring the matter to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in two weeks.

The issue of quotas for service-year deferments recently became an issue between the Defense Ministry and the Kibbutz Movement operations department, which considers itself the expert on the issue. It is trying to maintain and even increase its own quotas, while the ministry would like to see the quotas for other organizations increased.