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Life in Israel - Part 2 - Military service

March 16, 2015


Liam Neeson told an Israeli reporter, who interviewed him, during the last publication of the movie "Taken 3" that he saw a few female Israeli soldiers with guns at the Wall in Jerusalem and thought they were "so sexy". It made me laugh because I remembered the response of tourists who saw me standing with my gun in Jaffa, when I was an Israeli officer 20 years ago. They photographed me from all directions as if I was the number one tourist attraction in Jaffa.

In Israel every citizen who reaches the age of 18 (just after graduating from high school) should join the army for regular service. Girls are supposed to serve two years and three years is the regular period for boys. At the end of the regular service you continue to serve in the reserves until the age of 40 or 45 (officers).

In the Israeli reality only part of the population actually serves in the regular army and a very small minority (like my husband, for example) goes to reserve duty. Arab Muslims are exempted from the military service (although there are a handful of Muslim Arabs enlists in the army, Christian Arabs also recruits), Extremist Orthodox Jews (they usually wear black clothing, and in Israeli slang are called "Blacks" or "Charedim") are exempted for religious reasons as well as religious girls (extremist orthodox and also not extremely orthodox). I grew up in a religious home (not extremely orthodox). All the men in my family did military service (except for my cousin who is an extremely orthodox) and I was the only female in my family (father's side) who joined the army. Not only did I join the army but I chose to be an officer and so I served in the army for three years as the men. My sisters and female cousins like most religious girls (not extremely orthodox), volunteered for national service instead of going to the army.

Reserve duty, unfortunately, I hadn't got the chance to do, when I was released from active service Women received an automatic exemption from reserve duty. Today, girls receive exemption only when they become mothers. But in fact both men and women hardly do reserve duty. The IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) recruits only part of the reserves. Who is recruited? Especially those who don't try to get away.

Military service in Israel is A very central topic on the agenda. Due to the fact that entire sectors of the population do not serve in the army and don't serve in an alternative national service. This is not a question of national security, the IDF does not lack of manpower, but the fact that there is no equality in the national burden. The source for exemption of ultra-Orthodox Jews from military service is due to the arrangement made almost seventy years ago, when the State of Israel was established, under which ultra-Orthodox Jews who study Torah (religious studies) will receive an exemption from military in order to study. Back then it was a handful of citizens, today we are referring to a growing population (birth rates among the ultra-Orthodox are very high, ultra-Orthodox family has eight children in average, compared with two or three in other families). An ultra-Orthodox man who chooses not to join the army and go to the "Yeshiva" (schools for ultra-Orthodox men who learns Torah) is looking for a life of poverty because he can't work (if he starts working he will have to join the army). He will get exemption from military service and will be able to start working only when he will reach the age of 31 and will have five children.

What actually happens is that most ultra-Orthodox men do not serve in the army. They say they learn at the Yeshiva, but many of them are actually work in unreported jobs (free of tax and National Insurance) or they do nothing (it is hard to learn for years….) The burden of livelihood fall completely on the ultra-Orthodox women (as well of raising the children and being housewives) . When an inspector comes to check if everyone is really in the Yeshiva they come ASAP in order to pass the audit. This conduct greatly angered the public that serves in the army and contributes to the public treasury. In the previous elections held two years ago, about 16% of the votes were given to the party "Yesh Atid" (There is a Future) headed by Yair Lapid - a writer, journalist and a former TV guides. One of the main goals was to recruit the ultra-Orthodox and to equalize the burden.

Personally the military service was for me an experience that shaped my personality. I got a lot of confidence and I experienced amazing experiences that accompany me to this day. I served as a Logistical officer in the General Staff in Tel Aviv, and occasionally went to audit various bases around the country (I checked the war assessments maintenance units). I had a huge honor to wear the green uniform for three years of my life.

The IDF has an image of tough and serious in the world, but in reality the Israeli army is the source of quite a few parodies. I remember my time in the army as a time full of funny experiences. There is hardly an Israeli citizen who served in the army who doesn't have at least one or two funny stories form his time in the army. A few months ago a new Israeli film was released, and I can't remember the last time I was laughing so much. I guess the movie is funny especially  to Israeli women who served in the army since it's related to the service of women in the military, but I'm sure that everyone will benefit from seeing it.
Here's the trailer for Zero Motivation:


And… some fun pictures of me on uniforms:





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