National Service to Accept Only Half of Its Israeli Arab Applicants

Despite growing interest among sector's youth, program space is limited due to a constrained budget.

Only half the number of Arab youth who applied for civilian National Service this year will be accepted, due to limited space and budget.

Despite the obvious interest of the state to integrate Arab youths into the National Service, the institution only has room for 1,000 volunteers.

Some 1,050 Arab teenagers are currently enrolled in National Service programs. Nearly half of them volunteer in the education and health services, or at institutions in their sector.

Israeli Arab interest in participating in National Service has skyrocketed over the last few years. In 2007-2008, only 620 Arab youth volunteered in the civil service. Some 289 Arab youth took part in 2006-2007 and just 240 the year before that.

The head of the National Service administration, Reuven Gal, told Haaretz that the institution was not permitted by the Treasury to expand its service list.

"More and more youths are interested in volunteering, but the budget is fixed," he said.

Information Minister Daniel Hershkovitz, who oversees the National Service administration, has been in contact with the treasury over the matter and hopes to see the budget expanded.

The National Service administration has said that increasing the budget would ultimately benefit Israel's labor force as "civil service raises the change of integrating Israeli Arab youth into the job market."