Conscription in Israel

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Conscription in Israel during peacetime has been in place since 1949, a year after Israel was founded. While Israel is widely known for drafting women this does not occur on the same basis as men. Only citizens and permanent residents of Israel may be drafted.

Various exemptions exist which allow for a high proportion of men and women to avoid mandatory military service. This is a growing political issue in Israel. In 2013, 26 percent of all potential conscripts were exempted from military service in the Israel Defense Forces; 13.5 percent for religious reasons, 4 percent for psychological reasons, 2 percent for physical health reasons, 3 percent due to existing criminal records, and 3 percent due to residing abroad. As of 2022, the minimum required length of military service is two years and eight months (with some roles requiring an additional four months of service) for all conscripted men, and two years (with some roles requiring an additional eight months of service) for conscripted Jewish women.


More than 20% of Israel's population is non-Jewish. In general, non-Jews are exempt from conscription in Israel. The following table provides a break down.

Ethnic Group Gender
Male Female
Haredi Jewish Exempt if in full-time religious study. Exempt
Non-Haredi Jewish Required Exempt if religious.
Palestinian Exempt Exempt
Bedouin Exempt Exempt
Druze Required Exempt
Circassian Required Exempt

Israeli citizens with an exemption from conscription may volunteer to serve in the IDF if they otherwise meet the entry requirements.


Haredi men are exempt as long as they are studying Torah. In practice many men study for so long that they are eventually too old to be called for military service.

Haredi women are accepted as being religious and thus exempt from military service.


Non-Haredi women are only supposed to receive an exemption if they are actually religious. In practice manuy non-religious women have obtained exemptions. The problem has become so widespread that it has been reported that the IDF is cracking down on this in the 2020s.


Palestinians in the table above refer to Arab citizens of Israel, not residents of the West Bank which most nations consider to be under occupation by Israel.

A growing number of Palestinians are volunteering for service in the IDF.


Bedouin have a long history of volunteering and many have risen to high rank as career soldiers. Volunteering in the IDF is a way out of poverty for many Bedouin.


Men from the Druze community are required to service on the same basis as Jewish men. These provisions were added to Israeli law at the request of the leaders of these communities. Military service became mandatory for Druze men in 1956.[1][2][3]


Men from the Circassian' community are required to service on the same basis as Jewish men. These provisions were added to Israeli law at the request of the leaders of these communities. Military service became mandatory for Circassian men in 1958.[4][5][6]


Jews without Israeli citizenship may volunteer. Non-Jews are accepted for non-military volunteer work through the mahal program. This program sees them performing volunteer work at IDF bases without joining the IDF.[7]


Male IDF soldiers may be required to service in combat units. Female IDF soldiers may volunteer for combat duty but may not be forced in to it against their will. Women that volunteer for combat duty are placed in a relatively small number of border patrol units rather than front-line infantry units. While border patrol units are combat units they are significantly less likely to see action than infantry units and if they do it is less likely to be sustained. If it was considered politically necessary during a major conflagration these units could be withdrawn to defend Israel's cities, further reducing the likelihood of exposing women to harm.

See Also

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