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Haaretz: Suicide Rate High Among “Israeli” Lone Soldiers

Haaretz: Suicide Rate High Among “Israeli” Lone Soldiers
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By Staff, Haaretz

The “Israeli” newspaper Haaretz reported on Saturday that close to 3,500 lone soldiers without immediate family in the occupied territories are serving in the "Israeli" army. About 1,200 of them come from North America, a similar number from the former Soviet Union and the remainder from other countries

Foreigners make up a minor percent of “Israeli” army personnel, but the suicide rate is high among them, according to the report.

The report identified lone soldier as the recruits who enlist into the IOF [the “Israeli” Occupation Army] with their parents living outside occupied Palestine.

These soldiers comprise only 2 percent of all recruits to the IOF, “they accounted for a disproportionately high share of military suicides in the past year,” the report said.

In 2018, the number of overall suicides in the “Israeli” army dropped by nearly half to nine, compared with the previous year. However among those nine suicides, two were lone soldiers.

In the first six months of 2019, there were another two self-murders by lone soldiers, with a third death under investigation as a possible suicide.

Last week, Major General Moti Almoz, head of the “Israeli” army's manpower directorate, sent out a letter to all senior commanders with the a subject headline  that calls for preventing suicide in the IOF, including a part referring specifically to lone soldiers.

A Haaretz investigation revealed failings in the lone soldier program, adding that the program continues to be nurtured and encouraged because so many fundraising organizations and regime-funded initiatives have a vested interest in keeping it going.

"By the time many of them join the army, it is often too late to address their problems. It shows that ‘Israel’ does not undertake adequate background checks before putting these young men and women in harm’s way; that many of the young recruits do not sufficiently comprehend what military life in 'Israel' entails; that large numbers lack the proficiency in Hebrew and familiarity with 'Israeli' culture required for successful adaptation; and that many see the army as a form of escape from difficulties and challenges they face back home," it said.

A former high-ranking officer, who had close interaction with many of lone soldiers, said there are problems is the vetting system, noting, “The holes in the filter are way too big."

Arthur Lenk, ex-“Israeli” ambassador to South Africa and a former lone soldier himself, stressed that in addition to serious holes in the vetting system, foreign volunteers lack information about the army.

“We draft lots of our own kids, and there’s no reason we should be taking in mercenaries,” he said.

A., a former lone soldier from Canada, admitted that he had lied about his history of opioid abuse when he joined the “Israeli” army.

"They just asked if I took drugs in the past and I said that I hadn’t,” he said. “The army didn’t even ask if my parents knew I was enlisting, or try to contact them."

Shifra Shahar, CEO of A Warm Home for Every Soldier NGO, described Machal, a shorter volunteer service, as "totally irrelevant and unnecessary in this day and age."

“Most of them [lone soldiers] come here to escape problems back home. They can’t find work, they have no inclination to study, they’re the black sheep of their families. Many come from broken homes. Some even have criminal records. And someone out there has somehow succeeded in convincing them or their parents that the ‘Israeli’ army will straighten them out. Unfortunately, in most cases the army only aggravates whatever problems they already have," she said.