National service in a maternity ward
National service in a maternity ward Flash 90

An estimated 15,000 volunteers began a year of national service on Thursday. Volunteers will spend the year working to strengthen Israeli society in a wide variety of ways.

Among the aid provided by National Service (sherut leumi) volunteers: assisting in day care centers, teaching Judaism in secular schools, helping hospital staff, aiding the physically or mentally handicapped, environmental protection and staffing various aid groups.

Volunteers also fill a variety of roles in Israel's defense, with many serving with the police, the Shin Bet, or security providers in Judea and Samaria.

Sar-Shalom Gerbi, who heads the National Citizen Service administration, expressed thanks as the new volunteers began their jobs. “I would like to say to you: You as volunteers do no less than the soldiers in the IDF. We are here in service of the country.”

As in the past, most national service volunteers are young women from the religious-Zionist community, Gerbi said. However, he noted, there are a growing number of Arab and hareidi-religious volunteers as well. Volunteers “represent the mosaic of Israeli society,” he concluded.