Doctor (illustration)
Doctor (illustration)Photo: iStock

Critics of a proposed change to the IDF's draft policy for immigrants are warning that plans to force doctors immigrating to Israel to serve for longer periods in the IDF would discourage doctors from immigrating to Israel.

The new guidelines, which are set to take effect in ten days, would require doctors immigrating to Israel to serve in the IDF for a minimum of two years, up from the current 18 months. The minimum draft age would also be raised to 35 from 32, and non-married female doctors and dentists would also be obligated to draft. Female medical doctors who immigrate to Israel are currently exempt for the draft.

Observers warn that the new policy would discourage doctors from making aliyah, pointing out that the average American doctor leaves school with $200,000 in student debt. The average monthly salary for an IDF doctor is $3,500.

"Due to the new guidelines, doctors will postpone their Aliyah to Israel by a few years, set up a private practice, settle down, their children will grow up – and instead of making Aliyah at age 32, at the height of their professional careers and Zionist fervor, these doctors will immigrate to Israel when they are 50," Ronan Fuxman from the Nefesh B'Nefesh aliyah advocacy organization told JNI. "The new guidelines were established without consultation, in the dark, and in an unfair manner."

David, who is studying to be a family doctor at Harvard Medical School and plans to move to Israel after his studies, predicted that this new policy "would have a catastrophic effect on doctors. Why would they want to move here when they have a family and staggering amounts of debt?" he asked.

"This policy is irresponsible considering that Israel has such a severe shortage of medical personnel" he continued.

David was referring to Israel's current shortage of doctors. Close to half of general practitioners nearing retirement age and Israel today has 3.1 doctors for every 1,000 people, down from 3.9 in 2005.