It is painfully clear that Israel needs a strong well equipped army in order to defend the country against threats from our enemies. Some countries, like the United States have professional armies where service is a career choice and there is no draft. That's good and bad. Good because it's efficient for training motivated soldiers for service and bad because the burden (and consequences) of army service is not evenly distributed among the citizens.
In Israel we do it differently. Israel Defense Forces (Tzahal) is known affectionately as 'the army of the people'. That's because (in theory) there is universal draft here. By their 17th birthday everyone has received a letter from the army to report for preliminary examinations. Thus begins a series of physical, psychological and aptitude testing geared to finding the right people for the right jobs in this complex organization.
In addition to keeping us sage and secure the IDF figures heavily in educational, economic and social aspects of our country. Through programs like MAKAM which gives young people from problematic situations (drop-outs, disadvantaged, delinquents, immigrants having difficulty adapting) intensive help so that they can serve better and also build up their life skills and help them get further in life. There are special programs for integrating deaf soldiers as well as those with other handicaps into appropriate jobs in the army.
Mystical Paths, a charedi blogger describes his daughter's army service here. (definitely worth reading the whole post)
"Among general Israel you move from immigrant to real Israeli when you or your child enters the IDF. You’ve joined the ranks of those who have put their blood on the line to defend our common lives and community."Lives depend on soldiers doing their jobs right. It is dangerous for us to treat soldiers like children. Of course on a personal level, they are our children. (Although I'm 62 my mother still expresses concern about my losing sleep when she realizes that it's sometimes midnight when I call her, so I know that you are always your mother's child.) But, in a world where adolescence is often prolonged well beyond the age of 18 these men and women are trusted with adult responsibilities and all of us have to take that seriously.
This week, Anat Kamm was sentenced to four and a half years in jail for systematically stealing and passing on hundreds of classified documents to a journalist. Her father testified "in her favor" saying that his daughter had not intended to harm state security but was merely “foolish, stupid, idiotic and vapid.”
The court disagreed saying that it was difficult to believe that "the defendant, who has a high level of intelligence, did not understand the meaning, implications and danger of transferring huge amounts of data to a journalist for publication.” They also dismissed the notion that this was youthful folly pointing out that the security of our nation depends on the commitment of young people to the responsibility of military service which they take seriously and do well.
Our soldiers bear this tremendous responsibility with honor and we owe it to them to treat them as responsible adults.
Here is another heartwarming project of the IDF: (Can't help but love this army!)