IDF service under the Defense Law of Israel
The Israeli Defense Force Law makes it a mandatory for Jewish citizens to join the Israeli Defense Force (IDF or Tzahal) upon having reached the age of 18. This duty also applies to those who have another citizenship in addition to being citizens of Israel. Whether the citizen in question has moved abroad to evade military service, or lived their entire life outside Israel, they may be considered an IDF deserter. Upon entering Israel for any reason, they may be denied the right to leave until they settled their status with military authorities.
If you or a family member have had any problems with the IDF – for example, if you believe may be considered a draft evader or an IDF deserter – you should contact the law office of Cohen, Decker, Pex, Brosh. Our lawyers can check your legal status with the IDF and have experience with representing deserters before military courts. You can read more about this issue in this article on our website.
Mandatory military service in Israel for all citizens and residents
At the age of 18, Jewish citizens and residents of Israel are drafted to the Israeli defense forces (IDF). Israeli citizens are required to serve even though they are also nationals of another country. Permanent residents of Israel, despite not being citizens, are also required to service in the IDF.
National minorities (Arabs, Bedouins, Druze etc) are exempt for mandatory service, but often volunteer to serve.
What about Israelis residing outside the State of Israel?
Israeli citizens who do not reside in Israel (whose “center of life” is abroad) are not required to serve in the IDF. However, they will have to enlist if they move back to Israel while of the right age for military service.
Israel’s military authorities have given the authority to Consulates overseas to perform specific services relating to military service. These services include; determination of eligibility to serve in the army, verification of information on military service, and granting of deferments.
Every citizen of Israel, even those who are born abroad, are required to establish their status in the army by the age of 18. Establishing your status refers to determining your conditions of service in the IDF or deferral thereof. Adult dual citizens or Israeli citizens living abroad are required to prove their military status upon entering Israel.
Generally, a citizen of Israel who who was born abroad or left the country at a young age is eligible to get deferment.don’t have to serve in the army as long as they reside outside Israel.
A candidate for military service who is currently outside Israel – whether someone who lived abroad for years, or whether the person left Israel to evade the draft – who does not arrange status with the IDF, will be considered an “IDF deserter,” “draft evader” or “defaulter abroad”.
Between April 4th and May 15th, 2018, it was possible for people accused of avoiding conscription to the armed forces to freely enter and visit Israel without detention. This was a one-time program conducted for Israeli draft evaders abroad by the State of Israel to celebrate its 70th anniversary.
However, IDF deserters were specifically excluded from this arrangement. Any person who served in the military before traveling overseas without necessary authorization is at risk of being arrested when they enter Israel. Those who were conscripted for service in the armed forces, but not termed as draft evaders, faced delayed entry to the country and were be unable to leave Israel without meeting the conditions of the IDF.
A similar exception was made between 9th September and October 10, 2018, where both draft dodgers and IDF deserters were given a chance to visit their families residing in Israel.
IDF service requirements for dual citizens
Dual citizenship holders residing abroad and even young people who have resided outside Israel for their entire lives are candidates for military service. Entry into Israel for IDF deserters or draft evaders could be problematic. If the citizen ignores an IDF draft order or travels abroad after having received the draft order, they could be tried as a draft evader or an IDF deserter. Desertion from IDF service is considered a criminal offense in Israe. Anyone convicted for this offense can possibly face imprisonment and have a lifetime criminal record.
How long you have to serve depends on your age when arriving in Israel
The duration of compulsory IDF service for immigrants and Olim is based on their age upon arrival in Israel. However, marital status, medical profile and occupation are also taken into account. If a person arrived in the country for a private visit or under a recognized arrangement or program, resided in the country for at least 120 days, and then started the process of immigration, the period of service will be based on their age at the initial date of arrival.
Accounting for the candidate’s age of arrival is more complicated if the immigrant enters and leaves Israel before beginning the Aliyah process. The IDF candidate can visit Israel for up to four months per year before making Aliyah, and such a visit will not have the date of entry. However, it’s not necessary for the visiting time of a person to be continuous; a visit of a month’s and three-month’ duration will be combined if enough time has not passed between the two visits.
A person visiting privately is required to exit Israel for two consecutive years before the previous visit is considered separate. After two years, the person’s “accumulated” time in Israel becomes zero, and only the new visit will be considered when calculating the time of arrival. A person visiting the country under a recognized program of the Student Authority or the Jewish Agency has to leave for just a year for their time to reset to zero.
Who can be exempted from conscription?
The IDF considers three classes of candidates as automatically exempted from service in the armed forces. However, these candidates have to prove that they belong to one of the three categories, after which they are not required to apply for service exemption. The categories are: “Child of emigrants”, “Child of emissaries”, and “Foreign-born citizen”.
Candidates from the above three categories can visit Israel for up to 120 cumulative days a year without losing their exemption from service in the IDF. Also, they can seek the benefit of their right to a “year of residence” in the country without forgoing the exemption, provided they do not stay in Israel for more than a year. Anyone who remains in Israel after this point will be considered as a person who has come back to live in Israel forever; and therefore will receive an IDF service draft order.
You can read more about the obligation to serve in the IDF after making Aliyah and becoming an Israeli citizen in this article.
Other types of exemptions from serving in the IDF
Exemption from the IDF draft order for immigrants residing outside Israel is applicable in the same instances as that of candidates born in Israel. Parents, pregnant women, and married couples (men over 22 years old, women over 21 years) are exempt from IDF conscription.
Religious women can be granted exemption from conscription in the armed forces. When requesting an exemption, one must submit an affidavit duly signed by a rabbinical judge of a Rabbinical Court, expressing that the applicant follows a devout religious lifestyle.
Any person whose “center of life” is abroad can receive an exemption from IDF draft order with help from qualified specialists. In such cases, there’s no need for the person to undergo a trial, spend time in a military prison, or face a lifetime criminal record.
From the above discussion, it becomes clear that every candidate obligated to serve in the IDF must take necessary steps to arrange and proof their military status with the Israeli consulate in their country of residence before visiting Israel. Doing so will prevent them from being deemed an IDF deserter.
Contact us – Cohen, Decker, Pex, Brosh – Law firm
In case you know that you or your son or daughter are considered an IDF deserter, or have had problems upon entry to Israel, please contact us. Our lawyers will be glad to hear your case and give you legal advice.