Data show 1,400 Israel-Arabs joined program in 2009. Placement organization head attributes tend to 'strong desire to integrate into Israeli society'
Anat Shalev Published: 01.01.10, 00:53 / Israel News
A report published by the Shlomit - National Service Placement Organization indicated that the past year has seen a 90% increase in the number of Arab-Israelis volunteering for National Service.
In 2009, 1,400 Arabs joined the National Service program, compared with only 580 in the previous year.
Every Israeli citizen who is not obligated to serve in the army has the option of volunteering for National Service, which involves assisting staff at schools, hospitals and other institutions.
Haya Shmuel, director general of Shlomit, told Ynet that the figures are indicative of the Arab youngsters' desire to integrate into Israeli society. According to her, this trend began in 2006, when the recruitment of Arabs to National Service was made possible following a High Court petition filed by Shlomit to that end.
"One of the factors that had prevented Arabs from volunteering in the past was the objection voiced by Arab politicians and the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, but during the past year we have not heard from the committee on this matter," Shmuel explained. "They understood that when it comes to (National Service) they cannot suppress their people's will."
According to her, the sharp rise in the number of Arab volunteers stems form the realization that their involvement in the National Service program benefits the entire sector, as most of the youngsters recruited to National Service work within the Arab communities – in schools, kindergartens and community police.
However, many Arab-Israelis still disapprove of National Service. Amdad Darawsham, 18, who resides in a village near Akko, began his volunteer work at Magen David Adom emergence services this year.
"There were those who called me a traitor; I don’t know why, and I don't care, because I'm doing exactly what I want to be doing," he told Ynet.
"I recommended the National Service to a few friends. I think it's very helpful. During these two years after graduating from high school we can evolve as people and connect to Israeli society," said Darawsham, who hopes to become a nurse.
Minister Hershkowitz (Habayit Hayehudi) said in response to the report that he considers increasing the number of Arabs volunteering for National Service an important mission.
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