Parents push for Nahal camp closure

Nearly 100 parents picketed outside IDF HQ in TA over reports that base increases risk of cancer.

nahal soldier mud 298 (photo credit: IDF)
nahal soldier mud 298
(photo credit: IDF)
Nearly 100 parents of combat soldiers demonstrated outside the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv on Sunday, calling on the IDF to evacuate the Nahal Training Base near Arad following a news report that soldiers stationed there were at increased risk of cancer. The parents held signs reading "Don't abandon soldiers in a polluted area" and called on the IDF to transfer soldiers serving on the base to a temporary location until medical experts determined that those stationed there were not in danger. The demonstration was organized after Channel 2 reported last week that between 1994 and 2004, Nahal soldiers contracted lymphoma 2.5 times more than those serving in the Golani and Paratroop brigades. In that span of time, 17 Nahal soldiers were diagnosed with lymphoma, and the Paratroop and Golani brigades each reported seven cases. Channel 2 also said the training base was not far from sewage cesspools and several chemical factories that were possibly polluting the area. On Sunday, representatives of the parents' group met with the Israel Union for Environmental Defense (Adam, Teva, V'din) to discuss the case. "I expect the IDF to take the soldiers out of the base and to conduct the necessary tests," said Sigalit Kessler, the mother of two soldiers who served on the base. "We believe that the moment there is a risk, you need to remove the risk, especially in this case, since this is a risk that can be avoided." Another parent, who asked not to be identified, said he would recommend that his son go to jail rather than return to the base. "Ultimately, though, it's up to my son," the father added. Kessler said she and the other parents expected to meet soon with a representative of the Defense Ministry or the army to discuss the potential risks. "We are people who obey the law and educate our children to obey the law," she said. "This means that I expect the IDF and the state to treat my children with the same consideration and to take the threat and risk seriously." The IDF Spokesman's Office released a statement last week, saying, "The Medical Branch, which has been investigating the issue for the past year with the Health Ministry, will provide all of the information to the soldiers and the parents. We stress at this stage that based on the tests, it is not possible to attribute the morbidity to a hazard at the base." On Sunday, the IDF said it would hold a meeting on Friday with medical authorities, parents and Nahal soldiers to clarify the Channel 2 reports. The IDF has set up a hotline for parents interested in information: (03)-948-9999, extension 3. The Nahal investigation is not the first time cancer has been linked to IDF soldiers. Pollution in the Kishon River around Haifa made headlines several years ago when a squad of navy divers who had trained in it displayed a higher-than-average rate of cancer.