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July 23, 1993 - Image 61

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-07-23

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

Defined By The Uniform

A moshav 'call-up party'
underscores how important serving
in the military is to Israeli youths.

LARRY DERFNER

ISRAEL CORRESPONDENT

A young Israeli soldier
pauses for water atop a
tank on border patrol.

hey are held all
over Israel during
the summer, at pri-
vate homes, rented clubs,
beaches and parks, draw-
l. ing nearly the entire 18-
year-old population for
all-night bashes.
:gt:Far,Xi It's an integral rite
of Israeli culture — the
mesibat giyoos, or "call-up
party" to celebrate the com-
ing of that day which most
Israeli teen-agers look for-
ward to all their lives; the
day they enter the army.
At Moshav Nir Zvi, a com-
munity near Ben-Gurion
Airport of 200 families,
mainly well-off, living in
cottages and villas among
lush lawns and stretches of
greenery, the annual party
was for all two dozen of the
moshav's high school gradu-
ates being drafted this year.
Nearly 1,000 people from
within and without the
moshav came to watch the
outdoor stage show put on
by the youngsters.
The performance, and the
atmosphere surrounding it,
was completely free of any
patriotic or militaristic bom-
bast — the skits were hip
and funny; focusing on the
teen-agers' lives on the
moshay.

The few army routines
were totally irreverent. The
photos displayed at the com-
munity center showed the
recruits together from earli-
er class pictures. The
evening had a touch of sad-
• ness — it was a ceremony to
mark the departure of 10
boys and 14 girls who were
leaving their families and
neighbors to go through
that mandatory passage
into Israeli adulthood, the
army.
After the show, the per-
formers discoed till nearly
morning.
All the male draftees at
Nir Zvi, save for two or
three with medical prob-
lems, hope to be accepted
into combat units — para-
troopers, pilots, elite patrols
and such. (Israeli girls do
not serve in combat.)
Lior Solan-Shoham wants
to volunteer for paratroops,
but needs his mother's
signed approval to try out
because his father, also a
paratrooper, was killed in
the Lebanon War; the army
prefers not to put too much
burden or risk on such fami-
lies.
"My mother would rather
that I become a jobnik' (a
jobber, or non-combat sol-

dier), but she agreed
to sign because she
knows how impor-
tant it is to me," he
said.
"I wanted to go
into paratroops
even before my
father was killed.
He was a para-
trooper; my uncle
was a paratroop-
er, and most of
the men at the
moshav were in corn-
bat units," he continued.
"I want paratroops for a
few reasons. Partly to be
like my father, to carry on
the tradition, partly because
it's known as a 'quality unit'
of intelligent people with
high motivation from good
families, and also because I
don't want to let down the
people I live with, and I
don't want to let myself
down."
The moshays (cooperative

Army service
is a crucial
determinant of
status in Israeli
society.

farms with privately held
land), like kibbutzim, send
the majority of their boys to
combat units — they have a
tradition of army leader-
ship, their youth tend to be
more disciplined than in the
cities, and, as small, rural
communities, they are espe-
cially strong carriers of
bedrock values like patrio-
tism and military service.
Boys from religious
Zionist movements like
B'nei Akiva also tend to
excel in the army, as do
youngsters from the West
Bank settlements, whose
motivation has been driven

higher by the intifada.
But Israeli youngsters in
general have a tremendous
desire not only to serve in
the army, but to do so with
distinction - and just only
out of a sense of duty but
also because army service is
a crucial determinant of sta-
tus in Israeli society.
"One of the first questions
an employer will ask is
what you did in the army. If
you didn't serve at all, your
chances of getting the job
are nil," said reserve Col.
Reuven Gal, former army
chief psychologist and now
director of the Israeli
Institute for Military
Studies, an independent
research center in Zichron
Ya'acov.
Army service even affects
a young soldier's love life.
The prettiest, smartest,
most engaging girls "would
be very unlikely to go with a
jobnik," Mr. Gal said. "It
pervades our culture; it's in
the popular songs — the
girlfriend who sings about
her paratrooper or comman-
do boyfriend who's in battle.
You never hear a song in
which the boyfriend runs
the cash register in the can-
then."
Despite some perception
that the moral doubts
attached to the Lebanon
War and the intifada have
diminished Israelis' desire
to serve and excel in the
army, Mr. Gal said he has
found no change in motiva-
tion during the three
decades he has been survey-
ing inductees.
Year after year, about 90
percent of those tested say
they are "eager" or "very
eager" to get into uniform.
In a test conducted two
years ago, 92 percent of the
new soldiers said that if
there was not a draft they
would enlist.

UNIFORM page 62

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