Q: What is Machal Hesder?
Machal Hesder is an Army program intended for religious students who wish to serve in a special framework. The length of the program is 21 months, serving in regular hesder units.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q: Do I need to make aliyah in order to do Machal?
No. Students from most countries do not have to change their status, the exceptions being France, Switzerland, and perhaps others. Check with the local consulate of your country if there is any question. Americans should be advised that volunteering for the army may jeopardize their American citizenship. Though in recent years, there have been no cases of someone's citizenship being revoked, it should be kept in mind that the possibility exists.
Q: What if I am not religious?
There is a program called Machal Nachal, coordinated by the Zionist movements which sometimes run a program for movement activists after their one year Hachshara program in Israel.
Q: What is the difference between Machal Nachal and Machal Hesder?
Aside from the above, the Machal Nachal program sometimes requires you to change your status prior to the draft.
Q: What are the requirements to be accepted for the program?
- Men between the ages of 18-21 inclusive (there is a precedent for age extension until 22, and this is done on an individual basis).
- Previous study in Israel in some yeshiva framework for one academic year after age 17.
- Living in Israel without parents
- non-Israeli citizens
Q: What if I am technically an Israeli citizen?
There are four ways that you may have obtained an Israeli citizenship:
- Having made aliyah yourself.
- Having been born in Israel to an Israeli parent.
- Having been born in Israel before 1982 to a parent who was a tourist.
- Having been born in the diaspora to one parent who was an Israeli at the time of your birth.
In all of these cases you will NOT be able to do this program.
If you were born in Israel in either case and left at a very early age, (and we mean VERY early) it will have to go to a special committee. If you were born in the diaspora to even one Israeli parent, you are technically an Israeli citizen, albeit the rules pertaining to army and aliyah are far more lenient. However, regarding Machal, this must go before a committee with no prior guarantees of acceptance. If you are in this position, you may be able to do Machal as long as you haven't spent any significant time in Israel, prior to your present year of study.
Q: What do I do in the Machal Hesder program?
The program is divided into three tracks:
- 9 months of straight army service
- 12 months of study in Yeshiva under the Hesder program in a military framework
- Returning abroad: Within 3 months of your release from the army, you must leave the country for a period of 2 years. During these 2 years, you may visit for periods of up to 3 months. If you do not keep to this, you will be required to serve for another 12 months - 6 months of active army service and 6 months of yeshiva study ("shalat hesder"). Please note that even if you have tourist status, the army has the right to redraft you.
- IMPORTANT: the regulations are changing after Summer 2007 . From that date on the amount of actual army service will probably be 16 months. That is - an additional 5 months to the actual time in the army. Everything else will remain the same.
Q: Can I receive the rights of a Chayal Boded (Lone Soldier)?
Yes. You are entitled to all the rights given to you by the army as a lone soldier. You will not be entitled to the rights of the Ministry of Absorption since you have not made aliyah.
Q: Do I have to complete the entire program?
Technically you are actually in the army for the full 21 months. In the past many students have requested an early release from the army in order to enable them to return abroad for studies.
Usually the request is filed around two months prior to your having to return to your studies. The army is under no obligation to accede to your request. (for example: If you were inducted in July, completed your regular service in April, you returned to your Yeshiva, ostensibly from April to the next year. If you wish to return for fall semester abroad, then you will make this request to the army in June).
Q: When does Machal start?
There are two dates for Machal: One in July and one March/April. The dates are determined by the Yeshiva in which you are studying. Different Yeshivot enter at different times.
Q: If I was here for a year and left can I do this program?
Yes, if you studied at a Yeshiva Hesder, although it may take two months to set up here. If not, we advise you to arrive in Israel a minimum of 3 months prior to the draft date. You then must get a letter of acceptance from a Yeshivat Hesder first and then apply for Machal.
Q: Can I apply from abroad?
No. You must apply here.
Q: Do I need to know Hebrew?
Yes, the more you know the easier it will be in the army.
Q: What is the difference and Machal Hesder and the Hesder program?
The regular Hesder program is a five year study/army program for Israelis who wish to combine army service and Torah study. Once you are signed for the Hesder program, you cannot switch to the Machal program. You may switch from the Machal program to the Hesder program after having made aliyah and with permission from your institution.
Q: What units can I serve in?
The unit you serve in depends first and foremost on your profile which is tested only at the draft board. (What is your profile? It is composed of your physical and psychological assessment). For those with a high profile, the units mostly served in are the Golani, Givati, Armor Corp., and Artillery.
Q: What if I have a low profile (non-combat)?
You will serve in a non-combat unit with both Hesder and non-Hesder soldiers. This could include Communications, maintenance/supply "tachzukah"), Rabbinate, or Educational branch.
Q: How do I apply?
- Obtain a letter of recommendation and acceptance from any Hesder Yeshiva approximately 2 months before the day of induction.
- Contact the Igud Yeshivot Hesder at the Beit Meir building on Keren Hayesod (official address is King George 54, Jerusalem near the Great Synagogue). Telephone: 02-6253878.
- After setting an appointment, they will give you the appropriate forms and set the day for your visit to the draft board (Lishkat HaGiyus).