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August 02, 1991 - Image 96

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-08-02

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The IDF Trains
Delinquents in Khaki


Special to The Jewish News


ecently appointed

Israel Army Chief of
Staff Ehud Barak has
created a storm of protest
over his plans to eliminate
many military units and ac-
tivities in a desperate effort
to balance a severely strain-
ed defense budget.
One endangered program
involves special training for
ill-educated delinquents and
near delinquents; it has al-
ready been reduced in scope
by 50 percent, and the cost-
cutters would like to scuttle
it altogether. -
Thith to be told, the Israel
Defense Force doesn't need
the teen-age troublemakers,
but they need the IDF, for it
is almost impossible for a
young man to get a decent
job in this country without
evidence that he has done
military service and been
granted an honorable
When the participants in
this program arrive at their
special Galilee training
camp, they are immediately
divided into two groups.
Those who are functionally
illiterate go into a five-
month program which places
equal stress on basic edu-
cation and military skills.
Others, with the equivalent
of a grade school education,
spend just three months at
the camp, mostly learning to
be soldiers.
Naomi, who worked with
these young men when she
was in the Army some years
ago, says that it is more
difficult to change their at-
titudes than to teach them
skills. "They come from
slum neighborhoods where
their friends believe that
only suckers serve in the
Army, and, often enough,
their families are hardly
Helping to solve the prob-
lems of her charges was
more than just a job for
Naomi, it was something in
which she invested her heart
and soul. So, for example,
when one of the boys ran
away from the camp, she
used her once-in-three-weeks
leave to go to his home and
plead with him to return.

Once the basic training
period is completed, the sim-

Nechemia Meyers reports from
Rehovot, Israel.

plest thing would be to send
the boys to wash dishes in
Army kitchens or to sweep
floors in Army offices. In-
stead, the IDF invests
substantial sums in teaching
them a specific skill that can
later be used in civilian life.
Those with a very limited
education are taught
carpentry or metal work; the
top few learn how to operate
heavy mechanical equip-
ment, because they are
capable of reading instruc-
tion manuals.
Not every young man
taken into this special pro-
gram manages to finish it.
About a third drop out along
the way. But two-thirds
complete their three years of
military service and then go
on to earn an honest living
in civilian life — instead of

The Israel Defense
Force doesn't
need the teen-age
troublemakers, but
they need the IDF
to get a decent job
in Israel.

ending up, in all probability,
as drug addicts or criminals.
The strongest supporter of
this scheme is Agriculture
Minister Raphael .(Raful)
Eitan, who, when he was
Chief of Staff, gave it an
enormous push. "It is in-
conceivable," he declared,
"that the Army should ig-
nore the social problems of
the State. Instead of being
dropped," he added, "the
program should be expanded
because it today encom-
passes • only one-quarter of
those who could benefit from
Trainee Avraham agrees.
He himself had enormous
trouble persuading the
Army to take him in because
he had been convicted
several times for assault and
battery. But he finally
managed to do so.
"Today," Avraham says
proudly, "I'm just not the
same person I was a few
months ago. Who would
have believed then that I
would allow someone to
shout at me and order me
around without busting him
in the mouth. Until I was
called up," he explained, "I
used my fists to gain respect.
Now I get respect with my
uniform." ❑

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