IDF: Religious youth still motivated

Numbers willing to serve in elite units remain high even after pullout.

religious soldiers 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
religious soldiers 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The level of motivation among observant youth to serve in the IDF has not been impaired by the disengagement from the Gaza Strip this past summer and has remained high, IDF officers said this week. Despite earlier predictions that groups of observant youth would refuse to serve in what they had called an "expulsion army," the officers rejected claims of a drop in motivation. "The observant youth's motivation to serve has stayed the same as it always was," one officer said. According to the army, the last major draft in November proved that observant youth were still entering the army in the same large numbers as in previous years and were still highly motivated to serve in combat units. "Nothing has changed as can be seen by the November draft and by the number of observant youth who ask to become IDF officers," the army said. Not everyone agreed with the army's assessment, however. Kobi - a 19-year-old youth arrested in the run-up to the disengagement - said he was happy not to serve in the army. During his first interview with the army he said he wanted to serve in an elite combat unit, but the disengagement changed everything. "I came to Israel at the age of 10 and always dreamed of serving in the army," he said. "After the evacuations, however, I realized that the army wasn't what it was made out to be." At the beginning of the month, chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz backed down from his threat following the pullout from Gaza that youth who participated in resistance to the disengagement would not be allowed to serve in the army. In a change in policy, Halutz instructed the IDF Manpower Division to enlist all of the observant youth except those still under police investigation. In addition, OC Manpower Maj.-Gen. Elazar Stern issued an order forbidding field commanders from asking new recruits where they were and what they did during the disengagement. The army admitted that it had postponed the induction of several youths who were still under police investigation. "Their actions during the disengagement are still being investigated by the Israel Police," officers explained. "They will, however, be allowed to serve after the investigation is completed and they are cleared."