Ever visit a school, a doctor's office, a museum, or a government office in Israel and see a few young teenage girls (and boys sometimes too!) helping to run things?
What are they doing there, and with a job at such a young age? Well, they are in their year of Sheirut Leumi, or National Service!
In Israel, there is conscription for all citizens over the age of 18, who are either Jewish, Druze, or Circassian. Anyone exempt from military service can volunteer to do Sheirut Leumi (National Service) instead! Sheirut Leumi has become a respectable and highly recognized alternative to army service.
And when we look a bit more closely at the ins and outs of the country, we may just discover that much of the country runs on the hard work and effort of our Sheirut Leumi volunteers!
There are all different kinds of people that volunteer in Sheirut Leumi programs. You have observant Jewish women, Israeli Arabs, young Haredi men and women, and so many more. All of these young men and women spend one to two years volunteering all over the country, with all of the different populations and dynamic parts that make up Israel!
Some of the most popular positions for Sheirut Leumi volunteers are assisting the elderly or sick, working as a teacher's assistant, working in an orphanage, or working with Jewish communities abroad all over the world. There are various unique volunteer opportunities such as working in museums or helping children with disabilities through animal therapy. You name it, and it probably exists as a position for national service!
Here are a few facts about Sheirut Leumi that might surprise you!
About a quarter of all Sheirut Leumi volunteers come from Arab communities.
From the time it started in the late 1960s, and up until 2006, the Sheirut Leumi consisted of only Jewish religious girls who were exempted from military service.
Only in March of 2017 did the Knesset pass the “Civil Service Law”, that regulates the terms of volunteering in the Sheirut Leumi.
One Sheirut Leumi volunteer costs the government 27,700 NIS annually - that is 2,300 NIS a month!
Many young women come from abroad to volunteer in Sheirut Leumi in lieu of military service, to help support, experience, and connect with the State of Israel!