Axing of National Service Outrages Religious-Zionist Public

The Knesset Education Committee will hold an urgent session on Wednesday on the decision to cut out National Service school positions.

Hillel Fendel ,

The Knesset Education Committee, at the behest of MK Ariel, will hold an urgent session on Wednesday on the Education Ministry's decision of last week to cut down National Service for religious girls by a third.  The decision effectively ends the activity of over 3,000 National Service girls in schools around the country.

The decision was made by Education Minister Yuli Tamir of Labor, a co-founder of the ultra-left Peace Now organization.  MK Ronit Tirosh (Kadima), a former Likud member who served in the past as Director-General of the Education Ministry, said, "The Education Minister is consistent in one thing, and that is in causing irreversible damage to [Israel's] educational network... Though she claims to be an adherent of the egalitarian-democratic approach, she wipes out with a wave of her hand the important National Service enterprise for religious girls."

National Service is the choice of close to 10,000 female high school graduates each year, whose religious beliefs prevent them from choosing to enlist in the army.  Over 3,000 of them work in schools around the country. 

If the decision takes effect next year as planned, the country will lose the services of some 3,000 girls who, instead of enlisting in the army, will choose a third option: Staying home - i.e., getting a job, going to school, or the like.

Minister Tamir, claiming Finance Ministry cuts as the basis for her decision, announced a cut last week of 1/3 National Service positions - meaning trouble both for the girls and the schools who count on them.

MK Ariel: Tamir's Decision a 'Crime for Generations'
MK Uri Ariel (National Union) said that the decision by Tamir is both a "crime vis-a-vis the coming generations, and ugly political persecution."

"The schools rely on the National Service girls as counselors, tutors, teachers' assistants, and aides to weak and at-risk children," Ariel said.  "Taking them out of the pool means no future for the children who count on them."

Of the 3,136 National Service girls who served in schools last year, 90% of them were in public or public-religious schools.

This is not the first blow delivered by Minister Tamir against National Service.  Over two years ago, she cut national budgeting for National Service by 35% - from 60 million shekels to 38 million.  Despite the damage that this could have caused, the National Service associations decided not to cut the amount of National Service goals, and to pay, out of their own pockets, the girls' monthly transportation and housing expenses.

Ariel attacked Tamir for "waging a stubborn and persistent war against every enterprise that is identified with [religious] Zionism, even in something that helps the entire public - such as her cuts of the pre-army yeshiva academies, the Jewish Awareness centers, and Jewish studies clauses for yeshivot and religious girls high schools."

"Yuli Tamir's hatred for the knitted yarmulke [a trademark of the religious-Zionist public - ed] and everything it represents," MK Ariel continued, "has caused her to lose her senses, and she is now using the Education Ministry, which belong to the entire public to destroy a religious-Zionist educational and volunteer enterprise."

Knesset Committee to Convene Urgently
At Ariel's request, Knesset Education Committee Chairman MK Rabbi Michael Melchior (Labor) has called a session for Wednesday, 9:30 AM to discuss the new decree.

Yaron Lutz, Deputy Director of the Association for Volunteer Work, told Arutz-7's Hebrew newsmagazine, "I believe that the State of Israel cannot allow itself such a situation of no National Service in schools - neither ethically, nor socially, nor practically.  I cannot see how schools will be able to function without the National Service girls."

Lutz said Tamir is not justified in blaming the Finance Ministry for the cuts: "The Finance Ministry cut a mere few percentage points; this cannot be the reason for cutting 30% of the National Service positions."