Uncertainty and concern cloud conscription requirements of Israeli students

Paul Eyers
Paul Eyers

As war breaks out between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, a cloud of confusion has left many within the education sector concerned about the potential military conscription of Australian-based Israeli students.

The wide-ranging implications of the conflict, combined with Israel’s complex conscription laws, have unveiled a need for clarity surrounding the status of current Israeli high-school and university students studying in Australia.

Mandatory military service

Since 1948, Israeli law has required Jewish citizens turning 18 to undertake a minimum mandatory military service period – currently two years and eight months for men, and two years for women.

All Israelis under 40 who have already served are theoretically eligible for reserve duty and are available for call-up in times of crisis, unless otherwise exempt.

This has led to concerns among the Australian education sector, with news that the Israeli government has called up 360,000 reservists to help in the ensuing state of emergency.

However, at present, there are no alterations to existing requirements, meaning international students from Israel who are yet to complete their mandated military service can continue their deferment.

Traditionally, most Israelis complete their mandatory service with the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) before attending university. However, those who gained initial deferment or left Israel beforehand are still legally required to complete their mandatory term of service post-study.

The rules of draft deferment

Meanwhile, as a general rule, Israeli high school students who relocated to Australia permanently before age 16 are also eligible for draft deferment.

Dual-citizen students who can prove their ‘centre of life’ is outside the state of Israel are exempt – providing they do not return to live in Israel permanently while of military call-up age. 

Spokesperson and Head of Public Diplomacy at the Embassy of Israel in Australia, Ilana Lenk, spoke to The Bursar and advised Australian-based Israeli students to keep an eye on the consulate’s social media platforms and website for the latest information on military assistance.

“The Israeli embassy is here to support anyone in need and assist in any way possible,” she says.

A spokesperson for the University of New South Wales (UNSW), home to the Jewish student residential community, Shalom College, told The Bursar they were offering support to all students affected by the current conflict.

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“UNSW recognises that the current conflict in the Middle East is having a considerable impact on many of our students, their families and friends,” the spokesperson says.

“Students have been contacted and reminded that if they have general concerns for themselves, a friend or family, and wish to talk to someone, they should contact our Student Support Advisors.”

Military exemptions for overseas citizens can be applied through the Israel Embassy in Australia.

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Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with a singular perspective on the world.