‘Horrifying’ report shows third of Israel’s youth avoid draft, many for ‘mental health’

Report to Knesset shows exemptions to mandatory service on the rise, especially due to mental health exemptions.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

A report presented to the Knesset shows that one-third of Israeli youth are avoiding compulsory military service, Israel Hayom reported Thursday.

Data presented in the report showed the number of prospective recruits getting exemptions is on the rise, with most receiving a deferral on mental health grounds.

According to the report, one out of every eight potential recruits this year received an exemption from compulsory military service, above and beyond the 16% the draftable population that get exemptions because they are ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students. Of those who do put on a uniform, 11% do not complete their service and are discharged early, the report said.

Knesset member Ofer Shelah of the opposition Yesh Atid party who chairs the Knesset State Control Committee said the numbers are “nothing less than horrifying.”

“The army of the people is collapsing before our eyes,” said Shelah, an IDF veteran who served as a company commander in the Paratroopers Brigade and lost an eye in combat in the 1983 Lebanon War.

“The numbers of exemptions on mental health grounds is approaching the percentage of Haredim who don’t enlist because they are in yeshiva, and one-third of potential male recruits simply will not be serving in the military. Where is the government? Not doing a thing,” Shelah said.

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The head of IDF personnel and planning, Brig. Gen. Amir Vadamni, testified before the committee that the increasing number of Haredi exemptions reflected the growing size of the ultra-Orthodox community in the general population, but said he was most worried by the number of exemptions issued for mental health problems.

Vadamni said there is a new industry of generating exemptions that has led to nine percent of new recruits getting mental health exemptions.

“Pay 1,500 shekels [$460] and you are released. There is growing social legitimacy to not serve, especially not in combat roles,” Vadamni said.

“The generation of recruits has changed its profile and there is high awareness of psychological evaluation that was not common in the past, but there is [also] social legitimacy for not serving in the IDF,” Vadamni told the committee. “The ethos of service is being eroded.”