Analysis: Grass roots effort aims at boosting conscription

Thousands of signatures have been collected by a group of parents in a spontaneous drive calling for changes from Defense Minister Ehud Barak one week after the IDF published data indicating that one of four Israeli teenagers evades mandatory military service. "The responsibility is on the government, the educational system, we the parents, but also on the media, which chooses to promote young artists, singers and models who didn't serve in the army," Miri Baron, a kindergarten teacher from Givat Shmuel, who is one of the leaders of The Parents Forum Campaign, told The Jerusalem Post. Baron, a mother of four, points to the unfair reality in which some young teenagers prefer to study or pursue a career while others fulfill their civic duty, serve in the army and may even die while protecting the country. The release of the figures indicating that the number of draft dodgers has jumped to 25 percent from 23.4% accelerated the campaign, which started two weeks ago when the Knesset extended the Tal Law, which dismisses haredi youth from military service for another five years. Adding fuel to the fire was the discovery that four of the eight finalists on the Channel 2 hit television show A Star Is Born did not serve in the army and, rather than being punished or outcast, became role models. "We have lost the shame, that is the real problem," said Yoel Marshak, coordinator of the missions department at the United Kibbutzim Movement. "A military service has to be a social norm, not a governmental decision. Eventually, it all comes down to education and values." According to the kibbutz group's latest poll, 91% of kibbutz youth serve in the IDF, including 84% in significant combat positions, with those who cannot contributing in all sorts of national service. "This high level of commitment is a direct result of our education," said Marshak. "It's the leadership's responsibility to handle this situation, and I expect the media to cooperate and not to give good exposure to those who don't give as the majority do." Gil Samsonov, a partner in the firm Glikman-Netler-Samsonov, has initiated a pact among advertisers and publicists who will refuse to hire celebrities and fresh talent who did not serve in the army. "I think we should make sure that these draft dodgers do not benefit twice. First they don't contribute anything to their country, and second, they make hundreds of thousands of dollars on our account," Samsonov said. "It makes me furious when a celebrity like Michel Louis nurtures his stomach muscles and plays basketball in his free time but couldn't serve in the army because of a health problem." Actor Shlomo Wishinsky, who lost his soldier son Lior three years ago in a military operation in the Philadelphi corridor, started his own campaign three months ago. He told the Post Monday that draft dodgers should be punished by not receiving driving licenses, for example. "People who avoid military service with the excuse of not being able to receive orders shouldn't be able to purchase a driving license because road signs constitute orders as well. Imagine if I refused to pay taxes because it depresses me and doesn't fit my personality. Where would we be then?"