7 IAF officers jailed for hazing rituals

IAF commander learns of ceremonies at air force base where new recruits were beaten, bound.

nehushtan 248 88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
nehushtan 248 88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Beatings, ripping out soldiers' leg hairs and spreading hot sauce on their arms were just some of the initiation techniques used by seven junior Israel Air Force officers jailed by the IDF this week. The IDF said these hazing ceremonies took place at a IAF radar station unit in the South and had been going on for years and took place most recently this past weekend. The soldiers beat the new recruits, tied their hands in plastic handcuffs, stuffed garlic in their mouths, pulled out hairs from their legs and spread hot sauce on their arms, IDF sources said. The seven hazers, all lieutenants, were involved in recent years in the violent initiation ceremonies for new recruits in the IAF's Air Control Division at its base near Mitzpe Ramon. This radar station recently won an award from President Shimon Peres. After learning of the hazing, IAF Commander Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan ordered the head of the division, Col. Moshe, to sentence all seven to extended jail terms. Two were given 31 days in jail; two were sentenced to 24 days; a reserve officer to seven days and another officer who was a witness to the violence but did not actively participate to probation. Nehushtan learned of the case after one of the officers complained to his commander. The commander of the radar station, a lieutenant-colonel, was also censured by Col. Moshe. The ceremonies, the IDF discovered, began with a "briefing" to the new recruits during which they were told that their participation was not mandatory and that they could ask to stop the hazing at any stage. "This is very serious since the officers physically abused the soldiers and undermined the basic IAF values," said a senior IAF officer. Brig.-Gen. Rami Ben-Efraim, head of the IAF's Manpower Division, has launched an investigation throughout the entire air force to uncover additional hazing ceremonies. News of the hazing in the IAF follows disciplinary action that was taken last week against a number of commanders in Battalion 74 of the 188th Armored Brigade who held similar rituals for new recruits. During the hazing in Battalion 74, recruits 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. Meanwhile Thursday, The Jerusalem Post learned that five soldiers from the 401st Armored Brigade's reconnaissance unit were expelled from their unit and confined to base after they abused soldiers during a training exercise. The five, brigade commander Col. Yigal Slovik said, were veteran members of the elite squad called Palsar in Hebrew - and ordered new recruits in the unit to take off their pants and train in their boxers. After learning of the incident, Slovik called the five to his office, sentenced them to base confinement and expelled them from the unit. "The veterans were teaching some technique to the younger soldiers," Slovik told the Post this week. "One of the young soldiers complained that his belt was too tight and the veteran soldiers said no problem‚ and then ordered all of the young soldiers to take off their pants." Usually such stories are swept under the rug in the IDF and commanders do their best to prevent their publication. Since the hazing of new recruits in the 188th Brigade was revealed last month, however, the Armored Corps has adopted a "tell all" approach in an effort to show the public that such conduct would not be tolerated. "This is unacceptable," Slovik said. "Commanders and soldiers who engage in such activity will be uprooted and punished." Instead, he suggested that welcoming ceremonies be allowed but that they include positive reinforcement and focus on the unit's military history and its major achievements.