New data shows that every third Israeli designated for compulsory military service duty receives an exemption, and that most of them are under the mental health clause. The alarm bells went off since this statistic nearly doubled in the last four years, with the most likely explanation being that healthy youth are doing whatever they need to do in order to register as mentally incapable of serving in the army.
This phenomenon is not new but it does point to an overall downward trend in IDF recruitment. For example, when I enlisted in the Israeli Air Force some 40 years ago, the general atmosphere that enveloped everyone around me was that, “Soon this whole ordeal will be over with, and right after it’s done I’m flying away to wherever it may be, whether America, India or Australia. The main thing is that it’s far away.” This attitude gave the soldiers of the time a certain kind of fuel until their release date.
Obviously, the motivation for serving the country today is much lower. It is all the more so when the derogatory discourse of scorn and criticism of the State of Israel is a daily reality both inside and outside the country. In such a climate, who has the psychological strength and drive to undergo hard training and to fight devotedly for Israel? This general dissipated atmosphere raises Israel’s citizens to think that leaving the country is a much more desirable option than national service.
I, however, would in no way concede such service. Not only did I join the Air Force when I moved to Israel, but I raised my daughters to devote two full years to service of their country. The army is like a country within the country, where citizens from all walks of life come together and undergo an experience that unifies them, giving them a sense of a common identity within a surrounding climate that tears away at that unification. Undergoing such an out-of-the-ordinary experience to protect a common home is something that cannot be felt in any other setting.
It hurts me that we have developed such a disregard of the land of our ancestors. However, it is also clear to me that the inner spirit of Israel, the idea of brotherly love, cannot be eliminated. The Land of Israel will always be the central living spirit vitalizing the Jewish people.
Values that unify the people of Israel should be instilled in upcoming generations because if we continue business as usual, letting contempt toward the country fill our hearts, life will ultimately become worse not only for us, but for humanity as a whole. (On this point, I have expanded at length in other places about the vital role of the people of Israel.)
Thus, we must raise our youth to recognize the importance of our people and State. As part and parcel of our upbringing, we should learn about the essence of our spiritual root, the reason for being granted the Land of Israel, and our duty to unify and pass on this spirit of unification to the world. Through such an understanding, we would then realize the importance of protecting ourselves and our land from enemy threats. Likewise, when the feeling of importance in our role as a unique people and the value of our homeland fills Israeli citizens and especially the youth, then the recruitment percentages to serve Israel will rise accordingly.