Minister of Environmental Protection Amir Peretz – a member of the Ministerial Committee for Equality in National Service – has instructed the ministry’s management to prepare a plan to absorb 500 national service volunteers from the ultra-Orthodox and Arab sectors. Positions that will be available include: supervisory roles in the Marine and Coastal Division, monitoring of pest control activities in various communities, and a wide range of other jobs that will ultimately help program participants integrate into society.

The minister also announced that the ministry will allocate NIS 40 million for a program to collect and treat waste in low socio-economic neighborhoods, with a high priority on Arab and ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, areas.

Peretz told ministry officials to focus on developing national service positions that can serve the volunteers in the future, and will improve their odds of finding work. The volunteers would go through a rigorous training period to ensure they learn their jobs well.
Minister Peretz: "I see in national service volunteers the potential to fill a number of significant positions, which will ultimately help them find jobs after their service. This move will benefit the environment, the volunteers – who will have better chances of finding rewarding work, and the local communities where volunteers will do the work."
The national service unit would be created in the framework of a program aimed at equalizing the national burden; currently, most ultra-Orthodox and Arab citizens are exempt from military service, while most other Israelis are required to serve two or three years in the Israel Defense Forces. Peretz is a member of a committee tasked with drafting new legislation that would increase enlistment of ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arabs to military or national service.
Peretz noted during a meeting of the Knesset’s Internal Affairs and Environment Committee that Arab men rarely take part in the country’s national service program. The ministry’s new unit, which will increase the chances that participants will start working in the environmental field, is an opportunity to change the gender balance in the workforce, both in the Arab sector and the Haredi sector.
The minister added that he is "not prepared to accept the fact that there are neighborhoods in Israel that look like the Third World. There are communities where residents burn their garbage because they have no trash collection system." Thus, Peretz declared, the ministry will allocate NIS 40 million to establish a program to deal with waste in periphery communities. "You cannot separate between poverty and ‘environmentally poor,’" said Peretz. "I intend to invest much of my effort in the Haredi and Arab populations… Even those who live in north Tel Aviv are affected by what happens in Bnei Brak. Nature knows no borders."