Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Does everyone serve?

There has been a discussion going on here the past week or so about the recently published statistic whereby 25% of our 18-year-olds are not enlisting this year. Ehud Barak, recently reappointed minister of defense, said the other day that the statistic isn't so dramatic, what's new is the brazenness of those who don't join. Since Achikam just joined, four days ago, I have a very vested interest in the discussion, but I'm not joining in the uproar.

First, becasue Achikam himself is 19, not 18, and I wonder how many others like him deferred their enlistment for a year, for tracks that will ensure that when they do enlist they'll be better soldiers (and better citizen soldiers). Thousands, I'd hazard a guess.

Second, because some of the rise in the number of non-enlisters is simply the result of the growing proportion of the ultra-orthodox, most of whom never served; the relationship of the ultra-orthodox to the rest of us is more complex than the present spate of statements in the media.

Third, the brazenness is there, no doubt, but it's not evenly spread. I'd guess it's concentrated in one or two segments of the society, and - at least for the time being - is probably still containable.

Which brings me to my final point, which is that when I look at the 75% who are enlisting - an unimaginable number in most Western societies - I see a generation that is taking upon itself a heavy responsibility, unparalleled elsewhere, with a determination that is nothing short of awe inspiring, were it not the norm here.

So yes, we've got a problem with that growing minority, or better, a complex set of diverse problems, but they can be faced. The statistic does not tell of a declining will of the Israelis to persevere.

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