There are several main types of exemption from military service in Israel: exemption on health grounds (“Profile 21”), exemption for religious women, exemption for married women, pregnant women and mothers, and exemption due to “incompatibility”, which can be given to those who spent a considerable period in military prison (due to ideological refusal to serve in the military or for any other reason), for those who have convinced a military committee that they are pacifists, for those whom the army decided they don’t reach its “enlistment standards,” and more. Some of these exemption types are available for everyone, including regular soldiers, reserve soldiers and ’atuda’ soldiers (those who pursue an academic degree as part of their military service), while others exemption avenues are limited to certain populations or are dependent upon other factors. In addition, there are arrangements for postponement of enlistment for Israeli citizens who emigrated out of Israel as children and for several religious groups. Following these arrangements’ rules might eventually result in full exemption at a later age.
Exemption on health grounds (“Profile 21”)
Medical exemption (“Profile 21”) is granted to those who were diagnosed with a medical or mental health condition which deems them unfit for military service. The exemption process might be tiring and long, but it usually doesn’t involve risks, such as imprisonment. Read more
Before enlistment – this type of exemption is granted to candidates for service whom the Israeli Military determined as standing below its enlistment standards.
During service – such exemption may be granted due to “problematic” behaviors, such as long absences from service, long imprisonment, conviction for grave offenses, and more. There is no formal procedure for applying for this type of exemption and the military decides in which case to grant it.
Read more (in Hebrew)
This type of exemption is granted to female candidates for service or soldiers who are married, pregnant, or mothers. The only condition for receiving this exemption is presenting documents which prove marriage, pregnancy, or parenthood. Read more (in Hebrew)
The academic Atuda contract prevents early exemption of those signed on it, except in exceptional cases. In reality, Atuda soldiers can get an exemption from military service on grounds of physical or mental health, and very rarely also on grounds of consciousness. Read more (in Hebrew)
This type of exemption is granted to candidates for service whose application to be recognized as pacifists was approved by the military’s own consciousness committee. This process of obtaining exemption might be long, and it is very much recommended to consult the Counseling Network prior to initiating it.
Read more (in Hebrew)
This type of exemption is granted to female candidates for service who declare they keep Kosher, avoid driving on Shabat, and live religiously. The military usually checks the level of religiousness of the exemption seeker, especially if she comes from a non-religious background. Another religion-related exemption is given to members of groups who have reached an arrangement with the military (Yeshiva students, Druze religion students, Jehovah’s Witnesses).
Read more (in Hebrew)
Residency out of Israel
Israelis who were born outside of Israel or emigrated from Israel before the age of 16 must be in contact with Israeli authorities where they live in order to receive an official status which enables them to visit Israel up to 120 days per year without having to enlist. Those who haven’t adjusted their status, or emigrated after the age of 16, are obliged to enlist, with risk of imprisonment upon arrival to Israel. Read more
Before you begin the exemption process
Before you begin the process of obtaining an exemption from military service, you have to feel you live well with the decision to avoid enlistment. If you are still in doubt, try reflecting: deep inside, does it feel right for you to be part of the military, or not? People may tell you: “why don’t you give it a try? And if it won’t work, just leave.” However, once you have joined the military, the way out will be much harder. The earlier you begin with the exemption process, obtaining an exemption will be less difficult. Over and over, we see cases in which society has pushed and managed to convince people who deep inside are opposed to serving in the military. And unfortunately, these situations often do not end well. So we suggest trying to reach a decision on your own, independently, and in advance. Read here about the various types of exemptions and our FAQ page (in Hebrew). Consider all of the information available to you and reflect.
If you have independently chosen not to enlist and are final in your decision, it is important that you choose in advance the method through which you wish to seek an exemption, since in most cases using more than one method can interrupt another.
If you have decided not to enlist, but are still unsure about how you’ll attempt to seek an exemption, you may try and extend the time until your preliminary military ‘checkups,’ giving yourself more time to act in a relaxed and focused manner:
- You don’t have to make an effort to arrive immediately when you are being called. Wait until they send you “red orders” (order 12) (What’s the rush? Do you want to present yourself as an obedient citizen? Why would they let you go then?)
- Do not make an effort to pass the military exams.
- In the military medical checks, you may complain about any medical problem you have, but without exaggeration. It is your legal obligation to report to military officials about your medical problems truthfully and completely.
- If you’ll have an interview, say explicitly that you don’t want to serve in the military. If you haven’t decided which exemption channel to take, don’t say why. This way you keep your options open.
If you consider quitting your service, think about it well. It is important that you decide what you want before initiating a process vis-a-vis the system, which knows how to take advantage of your hesitant and mistaken steps. When you consider, be honest with yourselves regarding your authentic wish and don’t let others decide for you. You are the one who is supposed to serve, and you will cope with the consequences of your decision. Check well all the facts regarding exemption procedures before deciding whether to begin the process. Read about the various exemption types, click the links to deepen your understanding about each of them, and visit our FAQ page. Don’t forget to visit our forum, where you can learn from the experience of others who went through the process (links in Hebrew). You are welcome to contact the Counseling Network and discuss the exemption process with our trained volunteers. Don’t go through this alone–we will not be able to help you with the decision–which is entirely yours–but we can share information and our experience.
If after reflection, you have decided you cannot stay in the military, you have several options. The best course of action is to decide in advance on one method towards exemption and begin the process–this will increase your chances of exemption. Remember that once you’ve decided, you will manage to leave the military, even in the most difficult situations. It is a process that might take long, though, and at times get complicated, and you must remain patient and determined.