Despite the fact that some sectors of Israeli society have harshly criticized the Tal Law [exempting ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students from mandatory military service], it is nevertheless slowly encouraging ultra-Orthodox integration into Israeli society, figures presented Monday to the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee show.
Those in favor of extending the law argue that the haredi [ultra-Orthodox] sector has undergone a revolution over the past few years, and there are now thousands of haredi youth enrolled in special IDF programs, called "Shahar" programs, to help integrate them into the military. More than 2,000 serve or have served in the national civilian service (an alternative to military service which involves volunteering).
The director-general of the National Civilian Service administration in the Science and Technology Ministry, Sar Shalom Jerbi, presented the committee with the survey, conducted by Maagar Mochot (one of Israel's leading research institutions) on Monday. Maagar Mochot polled Shahar program and civilian service volunteers, questioning them about their degree of integration into Israeli society during and following their time in Shahar or the national civilian service.
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According to the survey, 83 percent of haredi volunteers said they planned to either enter the work force or go to school following their service. This figure may be a cause for concern for some yeshiva heads, as it means that only 17% will return to yeshiva studies, which is the more traditional path for haredi males.
In order to offer support and encouragement, haredi soldiers are recruited via the "buddy system," in which volunteers encourage their friends and families to join. Therefore, senior National Civilian Service administration officials are happy with the figure showing that over 80% of the national civilian service volunteers said they would recommend joining to their family members because this bodes very well for future growth of the sector. According to Jerbi, "The civilian service in the framework of the Tal Law points to success that can be seen in the integration of haredim in the work force and society, and achieves, in essence, its goal."
Professor Yossi Tamir, director of TEVET, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee's (JDC) employment initiative, which oversees the placement of haredim in the work force and society, added, "The concluding figures for  regarding the employment of haredim prove that the haredi sector is interested in integrating in the work force and earning a good living."
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