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December 25, 1992 - Image 32

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1992-12-25

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

News

© 1992 Discovery Comm u

Israel Softens
Deserter Policy

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Toronto (JTA) — Shalom
Cohen, Israel's new consul
general here, has sent a con-
ciliatory signal to hundreds
of draft-age emigres who
have not fulfilled mandatory
service in the Israel Defense
Force and are considered by
some of their countrymen as
draft dodgers or, even worse,
deserters.
"He who has received from
Israel must donate back,"
Mr. Cohen said. "There is no
argument about that. But
there can also be no argu-
ment that a youth who set-
tled here at the age of 15 and
a half or came here for fami-
ly reasons needs help."
Mr. Cohen said Defense
Ministry policy changes in
the last two years have been
leading to an approach
whereby cases are examined
on an individual basis,
resulting in shorter service
or an exemption for those
living abroad. A more com-
prehensive policy may be in
the works, according to
published reports.
The draft-age youths are
caught in a legal limbo be-
cause they did not return to
their homeland at the age of
18. While the consulate has
no numbers on those
avoiding military service,
observers have estimated
the number in the hundreds.

`deserter,' because I don't
define myself as one. I would
contribute if I were in Israel.
But I can't enlist when I feel
suspended between Canada
and Israel."
Others pointed out that
they left Israel only because
their parents did. Gil, a 19-
year-old university student,
explained: "As someone who
left (Israel) at the age of 15,
you don't have a lot of
possibilities.
"That's the path that your
parents pick. I didn't leave
Israel in order not to serve.
Army service seems to me to
be the most natural thing.
Really I'm against deser-
tion."
In many instances, he add-
ed, Israeli immigrants de-
pend on their young adult
children psychologically and
even financially.
"During the age of 15 to
18, a youth growing up in
Israel passes all the physical
and psychological changes

Under Israeli military
regulations, citizens who left
the country at the age of 15
must return three years
later for compulsory army
service. At present, men
serve three years and wo-
men 24 months.
Those failing to report may
never want to return to
Israel, for they would be im-
prisoned for the crime of
desertion upon their arrival
in the country.
The government's official
softening has so far not per-
colated down through the
consular ranks, where some
workers refer to deserters
with disdain, according to
Hamekomon, a Hebrew-
language biweekly news-
paper here.
The paper observed that
the attitude was a holdover
from an earlier policy of
stigmatizing all emigres.
Mark, an 18-year-old high
school student living here,
objected to being stigmatized
as a "criminal or a sinner. I
never committed a crime."
But Margarita, also 18,
was less concerned: "It
doesn't bother me to be a

that prepare him for the
army. In contrast, a kid
growing up here doesn't feel
ready," Gil said.
Yoel, an 18-year-old high
school student who has lived
in Canada 18 months,
claimed that the present
draft laws are a disincentive
for Israeli emigres to return
and must be changed.
"I've spoken with my
friends in Israel now in the
army, and they're jealous of
me for not serving. It seems
that army service isn't ex-
actly the thrilling experi-
ence that everyone thinks,"
he said.
Some youths, however, in-
tend to return to fulfill their
army duty, including some
who are not obligated.
For example, some in-
dividuals who were exempt
because they moved abroad
before the age of 15 have
been volunteering.
Their parents have found-
ed a group called Mashab —
a Hebrew acronym meaning
Families with Children in
the IDF. The group current-
ly consists of 25 couples with
32 children between them.

Citizens who left
the country at
the age of 15
must return for
compulsory
service.

411

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