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(photo credit: AP [file])
Dozens of youths entered the Tel Hashomer Induction Center on Sunday with apprehension as they enlisted with the Armored Corps amid reports that an armored battalion had held regular hazing rituals for new recruits.
One mother said she made her son swear that he would tell her about any act of abuse or violence.
"He swore to me that if something happens he will tell me right away," she said.
The Armored Corps made an extra effort to assuage the parents' concerns and assured them that the hazing in Battalion 74 was an isolated incident and that such things did not take place in other IDF units.
During the hazing, new recruits in the battalion were beaten and humiliated. Pictures and footage showed the troops blindfolded and with their hands tied behind their backs. The bodies of some of the soldiers showed signs of severe physical abuse.
On Thursday, Brig.-Gen. Eyal Tamir, a division commander in the Northern Command, decided to censure the current battalion commander and his predecessor and recorded a disciplinary note in their personal files. OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot had already ousted the company commander and sent him to military prison. The Military Police have launched a criminal investigation into the incident.
Chief Armored Corps Officer Brig.-Gen. Agay Yehezkel told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that barely any of the parents asked him about the hazing. Nevertheless, Yehezkel said that he initiated conversations about the issue with some of the parents to alleviate their concerns.
"We have condemned this type of behavior and uprooted it at its core," Yehezkel said. "Disciplinary and punitive measures have already been taken and we are continuing to search throughout the corps to ensure that there are no remnants of this conduct anywhere."
Yehezkel said he believed the incident was "behind" the Armored Corps, which had succeeded in more than doubling its enlistment rates in the August draft, to its highest numbers ever.
In comparison to 2008, when only 0.4 soldiers were competing for every available spot in the corps, for Sunday's draft there were 0.9 soldiers competing for every spot.
Over the past few months, Yehezkel visited dozens of schools and premilitary academies to speak to potential recruits.
He said the increase in requests to serve in the Armored Corps was the result of the key role the Merkava tank played during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip earlier this year.
"This is a significant achievement for the Armored Corps," he said. "We hope that this hazing story is behind us and can say for certain that we will not allow incidents like this to happen in the future."
Despite the immediate punitive steps that the IDF took after learning of the abuse, several Knesset members have called for a parliamentary investigation into the hazing.
MKs Nahman Shai (Kadima) and Moshe Matalon (Israel Beiteinu) said that an internal IDF probe would not suffice in preventing such hazing rituals from recurring.