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Aliyah Preparation: Shlav Bet - FAQ - Joshua, the Maccabees, Rambo, and Eli

מאגר מידע » Aliyah-עלייה » Army
כותב המאמר: Eli Birnbaum
There I was finally donning the green uniform of Zahal. The culmination of these long years of fantasizing about myself as part of the new Jewish fighting force. I was proud. This moving force lasted approximately 10 minutes until some 20 year old twit with three stripes on his arm yells at me "Ya Maniac tafsik lishon" - "You xxx stop sleeping" . Then a new feeling crept over me - dread! During my stay in what was called basic training I had lots of time to ask myself one question - Why?!! 


Here's the bottom line: After over 20 years of miluim, Lebanon, the Gulf war, Hebron, Shechem, would I do it again if I had a chance not to? Yes! In spite of all the hard, miserable times I would definitely do it again. But now, as my service is drawing to a close, I may just miss seeing those ubiquitous brown envelopes in the mail.

Q: What is Shlav Bet?

Shlav Bet is simply a term used to describe a shortened army service for older people. It can be anywhere up to 100 days.

Q: What factors affect how long I will serve?


How long your particular service is depends on your family status and your profile. Your profile is your physical condition. Whether or not a person is combat-acceptable ("kravi") is now taken into serious consideration when determining the length of service. You cannot know your profile in advance - it is determined solely by an army physician.

Q: Is there any clear formula to know in advance how long I will serve?

This is the $64,000 question. Officially yes, but there are many other factors which will also influence their decision. For example, this year due to budgetary problems some courses were cut short. Worse (or better depending on where you sit) a group was recruited for a course only to discover that the base was needed and signed over for another group at the same time. The first group got out a few weeks earlier.

Here is a presentation of the general guidelines for how long you may serve in shlav bet or in general (note that anything under 12 months means shlav bet). Remember! The information below is of a general nature only . ALL decisions regarding your army service rests EXLUSIVELY with the IDF. Note that these regulations apply to people who entered the country after January 1, 1997. If your entry date is before then, your expected length of service may differ from the below. Inquire at the IDF directly.

Age upon Arrival


 Family Status at Time of Draft



Married + 1



30 months

18 months

39 days





24 months

12 months

39 days





6 months

3 months

39 days




What is a ma'agar and why do I care?


As you can see in the above chart, the service that many of the categories does is labelled "ma'agar." A ma'agar literally means a data-pool, but for our purposes, we will call it a "reserve." This is not to be confused with reserve duty (miluim). If you fall under the "ma'agar" category, your name is added to this reserve of names, which the IDF has the right to use according to its needs. If the needs dictate, then you can be called for an initial training period (shlav bet) plus annual miluim. In practice, a person whose name is in the ma'agar may not serve at all.

Are there any exceptions to these regulations?


There can be plenty of exceptions depending on the individual situation. However, a big one is if you requested a deferment and, during this time you had a child. In this case the army will weigh the situation, although according to law you may be required to serve according to your marital status prior to the deferment request. Note: The army is often lenient.

Also, anyone who served a minimum of 18 months in a foreign military service is automatically eligible for shlav bet.

Q: What about those rumors that no one over 26 serves?


Officially, the army can draft newcomers until the age of 30. But, it is true the army has too many new immigrants and not enough money or bases to train you all. As a result they are giving less training and letting more people not serve at all. If you arrive over the age of 26, you will be placed into the ma'agar and maybe not drafted.

Q: If I have a chance not to serve should I volunteer?


Thanks for asking. My personal belief is yes, not so much for the country's sake as for your own and your family's. My children have seen me suit up dozens of times. They know I volunteered for a certain unit. This, more then any lecture shows them what I believe in.


On the other hand if you have a private business, especially without a partner, then miluim can be financially devastating. If you are in this position you should consult your spouse, who will bear the brunt of this, and decide what is best for you.


There is also a financial aspect. If you are a Yotzei Tzavah you will get a higher rate of child allowance and your children will have a better rate of mortgage loans even if they don't serve in the army.

Q: Can I jeopardize my citizenship by volunteering?


First of all, most countries couldn't care less. If you're from the States its simple – If your not asked….!


Seriously - the law regarding American citizenship works on the following principle: In order not to lose your American citizenship, you must show the desire to do so ("due cause"). I.e. - in the past, visiting a Communist country or volunteering in a hostile army, etc...


Serving in the IDF even as a volunteer does not constitute immediate showing of cause. In a case in Washington, someone's passport was withheld for doing Machal. The judge ruled against the State Dept., and his passport was returned. This is not a guarantee, rather a showing of the facts. No one to my knowledge in the last 15 years has ever lost their American citizenship for volunteering to serve longer in the army or for volunteering to serve at all. You can, of course, ask the army to draft you.

Q: What is the difference in training?


The 100 sessions usually consists of a two month basic training (rifleman 3) which is sufficient to join most miluim units. You then usually take a course for a month (Medics take a two month course). Lastly you do a month of actual miluim duty.

Q: What if the only exercise I get is when I open the fridge for a beer?


Welcome to the club. There is even a "walk don't run" brigade where if you walk too fast they put you on report.

Q: Is this training really worth anything? And if I have the possibility should I volunteer for more?


This is a debate within the army itself. The truth is you are naturally limited to your ability. As such you may not be patrolling along the border but may be relegated to guard duty on a base. Remember, this may not be your idea of army but as they say someone has to do it. If you want to serve longer in order to get into a better unit, then by all means do so. Just keep in mind that you will probably be older than most of the officers in your unit. There are many people age 25 who wish to do a more demanding service. The army will initially do its best to convince you not to but if you are insistent and you have a decent profile then you should be able to do most units. Be aware that if you wish to join an infantry unit you may have to do 1 ½ years minimum.

Q: What about "HAGA"?


Haga, which stands for "hagana ezrachit" is now known as "Pikud Ha- oref." In the past, it was a dumping ground for anyone who had 5 children before being called to army service or for anyone who served and then had 6 children. A low profile and age was also a ticket to haga.


In the aftermath of the Gulf War, the army command has now taken civil defense much more seriously. Now that most soldiers are weeded out by age 45, those starting their service later are no longer put into haga. The Pikud Ha-oref soldiers are now better trained than they used to be, especially in emergency rescue.

Q: Can I work in my field?

Not very likely. Your profession will have no bearing on your basic training. However if you are a psychologist or a lawyer, you may be able to do your reserve duty in a professional sector. A doctor has a slightly extended basic period of service, but then serves in his field. A dentist has the right to request to serve as a regular soldier so as not to do the longer period as a doctor. If you are an engineer and have 2 years to serve then you may have a chance but you will have to speak to the army about it directly – and don't hold your breath.

Q: What about my rights?


Your rights are NOT frozen when you do Shlav Bet. They are only frozen when you do regular army service. If you volunteer to do regular army service (minimum one year) they are then frozen.

Q: How often will I get home?


Not often enough. Once every two weeks for sure, more then that if you're lucky.

Q: Do I get paid for it?


It took you long enough to ask. If you are a salaried worker you will continue to receive your regular salary sans your car allowance and overtime. If you are an independent worker then you will be paid the average of your declared salary for the past few months.

Q: What if I am not working?


You will receive a minimal wage.

Q: How do I take care of the bureaucratic part?


At the end of your service as well as your regular miluim you will be given a blue receipt which has to be given to your accountant or employer. Don't lose it! It is possible to get a copy, but what a pain! If you are unemployed it will be deposited directly into your bank account.

Q: Is there anything for me to do after I completed my basic training?

Absolutely. Go with your receipt to the Bituach Leumi office and register as a Yotzei Tzavah (army graduate).

Q: How about miluim?


After the initial 39-day stay in the army, the IDF has the right to call you for miluim each year for up to roughly 25 days. Calling you depends on the current manpower needs of the IDF. If and when you do miluim, it will most likely be in something low-key such as guard-duty at an army base. If you do more then usually miluim you will get extra pay.


If your initial shlav-bet service was 100 days, you will be placed into a regular miluim unit and most likely called up on a yearly basis.

Q: What do I do when I get a miluim notice?


Take a deep breath and then fill out the form. If you intend to give in a "Valtam" (see below) you will have to check it, then simply send it back in the same envelope.

Q: Can I get out of miluim if need be?


Yes there are two ways. First there is the "Valtam". This is an official request which must be given in on a form which is available at the local Katzin Ha'ir. The reasons may be study at university, business, or health. If you are asking for a deferment due to business your employer will have to fill out the form. For any other reason enclose the proper documentation. The other method is know as Raayon Magad (commander interview). Usually your unit will tell you when it's held. You then simply explain your situation and tell him why you choose not to give in a Valtam. It's more risky and depends on your relationship with him as well as the number of people asking to get out . Remember he needs a minimal number to take with him.


If you have a positive answer on the Valtam there is no way he can co-opt you. By the way, be prepared - you may be offered to do half time. This doesn't mean you will not have to do another two weeks later on in the year.

Q: When does the year start?


January - January. If you didn't serve last year they cannot ask you to do more this year.

Q: How often will I have to do miluim?


Officially you will serve every year. You may have both a week of training exercises and a month of duty. The maximum rate is determined each year and advertised by the army. Today it is a maximum of 25 days a year, but in an emergency - anything goes. Remember there are many people who don't get called for a few years. Others serve every year like clockwork.

Q: How much advance notice must they give me?


Today they must officially give 60 days, although I have received backdated notices and even requests from my commanding officer to "volunteer". In times of emergency the chief of staff can order a Tzav Shmona or a Tzav Cheirum, both which mean automatic immediate call up - may you never see one!

Q: How often can I get home during Miluim?


They must give you 4 days every month. In most units you will get more depending on where you are and what the load is like. As far as Shabbat goes remember everyone has a family and wants to be home. One word of advice DON'T promise your wife or children I'll be home tomorrow. All to often there is a screw up the last minute and you can't leave. The disappointment is hard enough on you. Always say I hope to be able to get home - when you see me I'll be there.

Q: Is there any way I can make it easier on my kids?


I usually tell the younger ones a day or so before I leave. I try to make them look forward to it. Generally we don't have sweets in the house, but when I come home for a visit from miluim I bring each of them a Metzupeh - A chocolate covered wafer FROM THE ARMY! It always tastes better then the store bought one which doesn't have Shekem printed on it.

Q: What about my wife?

The truth is that the burden falls on her shoulders. My wife claims that she goes into fifth gear, doesn't sleep much and basically stops cooking or doing anything else except the basics. By the way there is an unwritten rule that if your car or the washing machine is going to break down it will be during miluim.

Q: What should I take with me?


The real motto of the Israeli army is not "Follow me", it's "Hurry up and wait!" Depending on your unit - can you trust them? You can bring everything from a small TV to a computer. I always bring a radio with rechargeable batteries and the recharger. A flashlight,leatherman, slippers, training suit, Shabbat shirt, a pillow, sheets, eye shades (for sleeping when the lights are on), sun block, insect repellent, ear plugs (if you get stuck in a tent with a snorer)... Basically anything which will make my stay a bit easier. One of my friends brings a beach chair and a cellular telephone. Most important, bring books. It doesn't matter what they are.In miluim you don't ask how many books but how many kilos of books did you bring.

Q: How about calling home?


Most outposts and bases have phone hours which are specific hours during which the phone is available for free. Larger bases have public phones, so don't forget to bring asimonim and/or phone cards!

Q: When is all of this over?


It depends on your unit. Unfortunately today the better and longer you served the longer you do miluim. Which is a bit unfair. Most units serve until age 45 but this is not a hard and fast rule. It may also be determined by your job. For example, medics or drivers may serve longer.

Q: What about travelling abroad?


When travelling abroad, you must first have an OK from the army. By law, ANY male citizen up to age 45 must have a written document which gives such permission (ishur yetziah). This is even applicable to anyone who will not serve at all or who is placed into the ma'agar. You can receive this document at your local draft board ("lishkat hagiyus).

Q: As a religious person what can I expect in the army?


The army does try especially for shlav-betnikim to make it as easy as possible to allow you to feel comfortable within the existing framework. The army actually has a printed guide put out by the Rabbanut and the past Rav Rashi of the army Rav Goren (z"l) which outlines what the army is and isn't allowed to request from you as well as what the army is obligated to do.


This is the only army in the world where a secular soldier can be brought up on charges if he mixes meat and dairy. For all the good will, there are especially in very small bases problems with relying on the kashrut. It all boils down to one point: You can't enforce Kashrut if the kid peeling potatoes doesn't want to.

Q: Practically what does it mean?


First of all the larger the base the more probable there will be a mashgiach around. If not, no matter where you are you can order special chalak (glatt) sealed meals. It takes a while to have it all arranged so be patient.

Q: What about utensils?


In my days we were always given upon arrival a messtink (messkit). All the religious soldiers receive two of everything. I brought silverware from home and just kept the army utensils for inspection.

Q: What about a minyan?


According to Law, the army must allow you time to daven three times a day. Some units will tell you that if you want a minyan you have to get up earlier. Others will allow you to arrange a minyan while others are doing something else.

Q: What about Shabbat?


The army is not allowed to have you do anything which is in contradiction to halacha. If you are on your base you will probably just be doing guard duty. There are no maneuvers during Shabbat.

A word of caution - the army has taken efforts to protect your religious rights. Don't abuse them. I have heard from other secular soldiers complaints that every time there was something difficult to do all the Datiyim started looking for a minyan. Being in the army is a unique opportunity for all of us to meet on neutral grounds. It can be a fertile ground for mutual trust and stronger ties between all of us. It can also, G-d forbid, be the opposite. It is up to you.

A few personal words in conclusion.


I am coming to the end of my own active service. Now I watch as my oldest finished his service, my second is an officer and my third is also in a special unit. It is now their turn. At each ceremony I watch with pride and they too fulfill the dream of Jews finally being able to defend themselves in our own country. Friends tell me that after all the years of cursing and complaining I will feel a strong sense of regret when I get my final notice. When the time comes to turn in my uniform I will probably get a bit emotional as with every stage of life - but one in which at least I am complete with myself and my ideals.


Sherut Kal!

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