A third of Israeli youth do not enlist in IDF

New data shows that 32.9% do not enlist at all and another 15% do not complete their military service.

THREE ISRAELI teenagers forge a special bond, but a looming draft date dares to tear them apart (photo credit: REUTERS/SUHAIB SALEM)
THREE ISRAELI teenagers forge a special bond, but a looming draft date dares to tear them apart
(photo credit: REUTERS/SUHAIB SALEM)
Nearly half of Israeli youth do not start or finish their military service, with at least a third of males getting exemptions for mental health reasons.
The alarming figure based on IDF data, first published by Yediot Aharonot, shows that 32.9% of men will receive an exemption from the army. With an average of 15% dropping out during their service, nearly half of men (47.9%) do not complete their military service.
The disturbing trend is even more severe for women, with 44.3% being exempt from their military service.
According to the report in Yediot, the figures show a clear downward trend in IDF enlistment among both sexes. For example, in 2007 a quarter of males did not enlist in the IDF, and in 2015 the figure rose to 26.9% for men and 30% last year.
In addition to the skyrocketing increase in medical exemptions for mental health reasons, the general recruitment figures for combat units have also seen a general decline over the past decade, to less than two-thirds (65%) in 2018 from four-fifths (81%) in 2011.
With thousands not enlisting, the figure is not marginal for the IDF.
While the Manpower Directorate has pointed to a range of circumstances behind the increase in exemptions, a large number is said to be because of recruits coming in with medical documents claiming they have mental illnesses preventing them from serving.
But the directorate is said to believe that the trend is not due to a sudden increase in mental illness, but rather to a decrease in motivation to serve in the army, leading youth to fake mental illness to avoid military service.
In November, a report by The Jerusalem Post’s sister publication Maariv found that, relative to the number of potential secular recruits being exempt from the military due to mental illness, the number of ultra-Orthodox (haredim) being exempted is higher.
For example, the data for two years show that while the number of mental illness-related exemptions among secular citizens rose 29% to 2,097 exemptions per year from 1,625, it rose 49% to 391 among religious men from 262.
According to the data, of the 4,500 who received exemptions, 44.7% were haredim, 46.6% secular and another 8.7% are religious Zionist.
Exemption from military service is covered by the Defense Service Law, which allows recruits to be exempt on grounds of medical or psychological reasons as well as pregnancy, religion (those studying in a yeshiva and observant women), as well as conscientious objection.