The Haifa Military Court on Tuesday sentenced two soldiers accused of violence against new recruits to five months in prison.
The court approved a plea bargain by which their ranks will be lowered to Corporal and they would be prohibited from commanding other soldiers.
First Lieutenant On Blumenzon and Lieutenant Shachar Nitzan of the 74th Armored Battalion pleaded guilty, though the two soldiers claimed they were only carrying out battalion traditions.
According to the judge, Colonel Erez Porat, "The two are excellent soldiers, but they have stumbled by committing harsh and degrading acts which have nothing to do with building the character of a soldier or fighter."
Porat stressed that "committing physically painful and humiliating acts against [soldiers] under one's command is completely improper. No other civilized and law-abiding army would accept it."
The issue of hazing ceremonies in the IDF first made waves several months ago, when both IAF and Armored Corps soldiers were discovered putting new recruits in their battalions through violent and debasing initiation rites. The veteran soldiers were exposed after a new recruit complained about the abusive nature of his training. Commanders higher up the ranks concluded the activities were destructive and punishable and took the offenders to court.
Nitzan and Blumenzon were arrested in August and charged with abusing 15 soldiers.
According to Colonel Porat, "This case clearly reveals an image of belligerence and violence against anyone who dared to deviate from the behavioral norms dictated by the accused." Porat went on to say that "the evil must be uprooted."
Under the plea bargain, the IDF will be required to acknowledge that such unrestrained hazing ceremonies have been a tradition in the 74th Armored Battalion for several years. This acknowledgement will clearly lighten the load on the two soldiers' criminal records. According to their attorneys, the IDF understands that "the behavior of the accused did not result from criminal or sadistic tendencies" and that the tradition existed long before Nitzan and Blumenzon ever joined the ranks.