The Corona crisis is an opportunity for the National Civil Service

The pandemic highlights the value of volunteers who come from all sectors of society, including those ineligible for army service
National Civil Service volunteers helping out during the coronavirus crisis. (Courtesy)
National Civil Service volunteers helping out during the coronavirus crisis. (Courtesy)
We are now in a new reality in the shadow of Corona, with the first wave behind us and the second wave apparently on the way, but the effects are with us constantly.
Quite a few good things have emerged during this period, cases of assistance, volunteering and mutual responsibility in Israeli society. The people who found themselves at the social front in this complicated period are the volunteers of the National Civil Service, young people aged 18-20, who were exempted from the army but chose to devote one or two years of their lives to contribute to the country.
Young people from all sectors of Israeli society – Jews, Arabs, Druze, religious and secular. Volunteers who made a decisive contribution to Israel’s civilian resilience in the face of the virus, and risked their health to volunteer in hospitals and with Magen David Adom. They maintained contact with the elderly, did shopping for them, served as an additional and essential force in the fields of health and welfare. Also, volunteers who were sent home due to the closure of educational institutions, for example, chose to enlist in the national mission and volunteered in essential areas where manpower was needed.
The National Civil Service is perceived in a way that does not reflect reality, as a second wheel for the army, as the default option for those who receive exemptions. At the height of the Corona crisis, IDF soldiers were sent to cities and towns in Israel to help them to cope, so that for long periods we saw pictures of IDF soldiers on civilian missions in Bnei Brak. The IDF rightly received the public’s admiration for that. But this is an example of the gap between the public image of IDF soldiers and National Civil Service volunteers. Without detracting from the importance of the IDF contribution during this period, it is worth noting that ultimately, the National Civil Service volunteers performed the same tasks of their own free choice, with no particular honor or admiration from the public.
The Corona crisis has created a new reality, and an opportunity for us to see the importance of the National Civil Service and its important contribution to the State of Israel. Volunteers are the fighters on the social front. They are an integral part of our people’s army, because our resilience is strengthened not only by security but also by social-civil welfare.
All of us, from ordinary citizens to decision makers, should change our attitude and relate properly to the National Civil Service. It has proven its value particularly in this period, as a body that can respond in times of crisis as well as in normal times, a body that is leading important moves in areas that affect our daily lives, a body that can provide solutions also for the larger social challenges in our country.
In fact, the Corona crisis highlighted above all the need for partnership between all parts of Israeli society, as the virus does not distinguish between religions, origins or worldviews. And facing it were people from all sections of the Israeli mosaic, with a shared purpose, volunteers from Tel Aviv, Bnei Brak, Rahat and Yafa an-Naseriyye.
It is important to understand that there is no conflict between the place of military service and the place of national civil service. Each is important and significant in its field, in each of them people make an important contribution to the country, and receive many values and tools for the rest of their lives. Each of them is essential to our future in the State of Israel. But unfortunately, while we are all aware of this in relation to the army, there is a mistaken perception of national civil service, and that must be corrected, and now is the time.
Corona has inflicted enormous damage on the whole world, including Israel. Among other things, it has led and will lead to changes in many elements of our lives, from now on. And here is one small but positive change that it highlights: National Civil Service is not just option B, not just the default, not just a spare wheel. It is a foundation of Israeli society.
About the Author
Yaron Lutz is the CEO of the Israeli Volunteer Association.
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