Facebook Foibles: Catching Draft-dodgers

Dear Folks,

Well, for the first time Brussels is experiencing bitterly cold weather. It is just horrendous. I am trying to avoid taking the germ incubator, or bus to work, because it is a sure-fire way to get sick fast. I  am trying to be brave and behave like a viking by striding quickly to the office each morning. This is proving difficult, and even more difficult as the mercury plunges.

Well, unless you have been living in an underground bomb shelter lately, you could not have failed to hear about all the juicy news about Wikileaks. Many of the stories confirm fears that many of the Gulf states share about Iran’s growing influence in the region as a nuclear power . As officials across the globe scramble to come to terms with the enormity of the information disclosed to the public, they will have to accept the reality that as long as memos and statements are on the net, nothing is really private or for that matter sacred.

There are debates  galore in the media regarding the influence that social media and the internet is having on human behavior. For one thing, we are much more driven by an unacknowledged desire to be seen to be doing. If your Facebook page is not busy with pictures, colour features, updates and all that vacuous plonk that one is expected to exhibit, then it is assumed you are an introvert or even worse, someone with a negligible social life.

The race to be seen to be doing, then perhaps doing is something that a number of Israeli girls must be regretting after it was discovered that up to 1000 women sought to avoid military service by pretending to be religious. However, thanks to the wonders of Facebook, hundreds of them were caught in the act of behaving in an un-kosher fashion by eating at restaurants serving food which is considered  treif (not kosher), whilst  other naughty girls were caught wearing revealing clothes and accepting invitations to parties on a friday night. According to the Telegraph, the military sent out invitations in order to snare those abusing the right to be exempt from military duties.

Israelis are required to serve in the military for up to a period of three years; however women only serve two years. Members of religious communities such as the heredim are not obliged to do military service if they attend religious schools known as yeshivot. This has given rise to tensions between secular and religious Israelis, who feel that they have shoulder the responsibility of protecting the country.

In Israel draft-dodging has become a serious problem which the IDF is working to tackle.  The head of the IDF’s Personnel Directorate, Major-General Avi Zamir, reported that in 2008:  72% of teenage Jewish boys and 54% of girls enlisted in the military, placing draft dodging rates at 37%.  “Even now the notion of ‘the people’s army’ is fraying and of these trends continue we’ll be on the brink of an abyss,” he said.

Recently, Israel’s Shas party shot down a bill which would make it mandatory for all girls, who claim exemption from military service, to present proof that they study in an Orthodox religious institution. If she is not able to do this, she must prove to a committee that she has been a religious devotee for an extended period of time. On November 25, Haaretz reported that according to the IDF, an estimated 570 girls were summoned to draft offices and admitted that their declarations were false.

The army forms the back bone of Israel, and  although draft dodging is not a new phenomenon, it could have serious implications for the country’s security, if the numbers continue to grow. In the meantime the Facebook “draft dodgers” can certainly teach us all a lesson in refraining from advertising one’s day-to-day activities on the internet, since there is always someone watching.


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