Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Civilian Service – NGOs on the Ground

The first part of this series focused on the role of Israel’s National Civilian Service Authority, both in fighting the coronavirus and in pre-crisis times. Clearly, this effort would be infinitely more challenging if not for the heavy lifting on the ground carried out by civil society organizations and their volunteers.

With about 5,000 participants (ages 17-24), the Israeli Volunteer Association (IVA) is the largest of a number of NGOs operating in the country’s civilian service space. Reflecting its vision of closing gaps and strengthening citizens’ sense of belonging, IVA’s volunteering options – from official institutions to non-profits – contribute to social impact efforts in Israel and are tailor-made for relevant target groups: the Jewish population, Arab community, young people with special needs and at-risk youth.

In a recent op-ed entitled “The Corona crisis is an Opportunity for the National Civil Service,” CEO Yaron Lutz expresses his belief both in the framework’s potential to deal with the pandemic as well as IVA’s contribution to societal cohesion.

“In fact, the Corona crisis highlighted above all the need for partnership between all parts of Israeli society, as the virus does not distinguish between religions, origins or worldviews,” Lutz writes. “And facing it were people from all sections of the Israeli mosaic, with a shared purpose, volunteers from Tel Aviv, Bnei Brak, Rahat and Yafa an-Naseriyye.”

Civilian Service – NGOs on the Ground - SDG 16 - Social Impact Israel
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Another Israeli organization active in civilian service placement is “Shlomit,” with about 3,500 participants. Like IVA, “Shlomit” seeks to promote good citizenship in Israel’s multi-cultural reality and strives toward pluralism among its ranks; indeed, it was the first NGO to facilitate civilian service for the Arab and Druze communities (as well as for young men).

Similar to IVA, the organization offers volunteering options relevant to social impact. These include assistance to the elderly as well as service in hospitals and Magen David Adom (Israel’s recognized national Emergency Medical Service organization).

The “Carmel 6000” social-tech program is unique among the various bodies that partner on civilian service in Israel. A joint initiative of “Hilma-Tech for Impact” and the “Amit” educational network, participants in this two-year framework engage in the development of technological solutions in the areas of health, education and welfare with a focus on vulnerable populations and people with disabilities.

Considered a pioneer program that recruits young women who excel in math, physics and English, “Carmel 6000” promotes itself as “civilian service’s 8200 (elite IDF tech unit – SII).”

These and other Israeli frameworks are key to the country’s efforts promoting SDG 10 (Reduced Equalities) and SDG 16, through civilian service activity.

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