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Israel Table of Contents


Reserve Duty

The Defense Service Law required that each male conscript, upon completion of his active-duty service, had an obligation to perform reserve duty (miluim) and continue to train on a regular basis until age fifty-four. Very few women were required to do reserve duty but were subject to call-up until the age of thirty-four if they had no children. The duration of annual reserve duty depended on security and budgetary factors, as well as specialty and rank. After 1967 reserve duty generally lengthened as the IDF experienced a growing manpower need. The average length of reserve duty was temporarily increased from thirty to sixty days in early 1988 to help deal with the Palestinian uprising. After about age thirty-nine, reservists no longer served in combat units.

This comprehensive reserve system, the most demanding of any in the world, was vital to Israel's defense posture. It allowed the country to limit the full-time manpower within the IDF, thus freeing vitally needed people for civilian tasks during most of the year. Because of the reserve system, the IDF could triple in size within forty-eight to seventy-two hours of the announcement of a full mobilization. The system was burdensome for most Israeli citizens but provided a source of escape from everyday routine for some. Most Israelis regarded reserve duty as a positive social phenomenon, making an important contribution to democracy by reducing class distinctions. Nevertheless, it was undeniably a source of discontent to many, especially those assigned to dangerous and disagreeable patrol and policing duties in southern Lebanon and in the occupied territories. In the past, evasion of reserve duty had been regarded as a violation of the individual's duty to the nation, verging on treasonous behavior. In September 1988, however, the media revealed the existence of a bribery ring of doctors and senior IDF personnel officers that sold medical exemptions for sums ranging from US$300 to US$500. The lengthy military obligation was also believed to be a major cause of emigration, although the number who had left Israel for this reason could not be accurately estimated. The IDF required Israeli citizens of military age to obtain the permission of their reserve unit before traveling abroad.

Data as of December 1988