Daily Israel Report

National Service: Volunteerism or Business?

As National Service organizations struggle with budget cuts, the program's founder accuses them of turning volunteerism into business.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 10/15/2009, 10:57 PM / Last Update: 10/16/2009, 9:06 AM

(Bat Ami)

As organizations involved in coordinating young National Service (Sherut Leumi) volunteers struggle with budget cuts, Attorney Dov Fruman – one of the program's founders – accuses them of ruining the vision of service by turning volunteerism into a business opportunity.

In an interview with Arutz Sheva's Hebrew news service, Fruman explained that National Service began as a way to allow young women who did not wish to enlist in the military to give to the country in a different way, primarily through volunteering in schools and hospitals. Now, he says, many young women who wish to volunteer on behalf of the state end up as unpaid workers – and take jobs that could otherwise go to those in need of employment.

Fruman used to run what was then the only organization responsible for overseeing National Service volunteers. The organization would interview each young volunteer and decide which task was most appropriate for her, he said.

"In my day, the goal was to help the country,” Fruman says.  “Today, it's a business. The [organizations] get involved in order to get the money.”

Schools and other places interested in adding National Service volunteers to their staff would be carefully monitored to ensure that they were not using volunteers to replace paid workers, Fruman continued. “I toured the various institutions, and if I saw a girl who was making coffee instead of teaching in a classroom, I would remove her from there right away,” he recalled.

Now, Fruman laments, “Young women need to travel around the country, looking for places [to volunteer], because the employers are the ones making the decisions!”

"Many business owners take National Service volunteers instead of workers,” he says. The entire National Service system has become “very problematic,” he says. However, despite his disappointment in the current situation, Fruman feels the program still has great potential, and should be reworked, not discarded.