Students Protest 'Gap Year' Quota Freeze

More than 150 youths from the Upper Galilee demonstrated yesterday against the army's decision to freeze quotas for graduating high school students seeking to complete a gap year of volunteer work before mandatory conscription.

Army officials say the decrease in the number of new inductees prevents the Israel Defense Forces from preparing a multiyear plan that would increase the quotas.

"We believe in working toward building a model society with values of mutual dependence and contribution to the community," said Ili Kindler, a 12th-grader at Emek Hahula High School and one of the protest's main organizers.

"But an absurd situation has been created. Because some people evade army service, the quotas for those wishing to do gap-year volunteer service have not been increased. So those who wish to contribute more to society can't."

He said that last week the government had encouraged draft evaders by striking a law that would punish women who falsely claim they can't serve for religious considerations.

"But on the other hand, it is limiting those who do want to contribute," he said. "I would expect that a country that is coping with the Iranian threat would also know how to deal with this issue," he said. Kindler said he thought 50 out of 180 students in his school's graduating class were interested in volunteering for a year before joining the army.