The Special Committee for the Equal Sharing of the Burden approved on Tuesday a proposal to consider time spent as a Chabad emissary as national service on par with working with the Magen David Adom emergency medical service, the police and the Disaster Victim Identification service, among others.
The proposal, initiated by MK Elazar Stern (Hatnuah), who was chief education officer in the Israel Defense Forces, was approved with a five to three majority. The supporters were Stern, and MKs Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism), Tzahi Hanegbi (Likud-Beytenu), David Rotem (Likud-Beytenu), and Ariel Atias (Shas). Those opposing were the committee's chairwoman MK Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi), MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid) and MK Omer Bar-Lev (Labor). The proposal was approved despite objection from IDF representatives. Shelah filed an appeal on the decision.
The decision to approve the proposal was made at a debate held to prepare the text for the civilian service law for its second and third reading. Stern proposed adding to the law a clause stating that: "The state will recognize the activities of yeshiva students outside of Israel's borders, according to criteria set in advance, as national civilian service. This recognition will include emissaries from the Chabad movement sent out around the world."
During the debate, he added that "the Chabad movement sends 250 to 300 emissaries to all corners of the world at any given moment. There are various components in their activities that strikingly parallel the character of national civilian service. They do important work in Jewish communities around the world and we must recognize them [for it].
"I want the emissaries to know on a daily basis that they are emissaries of the state. One of our greatest accomplishments in doing so would be succeeding in connecting Chabad Hassidim to the country, and showing that the emissaries, whose rebbe called on them not to move to Israel in the past, are emissaries of Israel abroad."
IDF representatives present at the debate expressed reservations about the proposal. According to them, a considerable number of young people in the Chabad movement who were set to be recruited arranged to have their service deferred. On Monday, the bill will be put before the Equal Sharing of the Burden Committee for final approval, and then it will be put forward in the Knesset.