They choose to enlist despite suffering from health issues, and the IDF accommodates their needs. "I am part of this country and serve like everybody else"
Upon enlisting to the IDF, every soldier undergoes medical examinations during which many individuals are deemed unfit to serve in the military due a variety of health issues, ranging from physical handicaps to gastrointestinal diseases. However, a select group of determined individuals volunteer to forgo their exemptions and join a special enlistment with other volunteers like them.
Three times a year, the IDF holds a special basic training program for such medical volunteers, the most recent class of whom was sworn into service in a special ceremony held just a few weeks ago.
"It's essentially basic training, but the main differences are in its length and nature," said Lt. Col. Ronen Azariah. "It's a five day course; people come in the morning, some in a wheelchair, and return in the evening. We give them an idea of what it's like to be in the army, to wear the uniform, to see how it works. They learn the army's values, professional lessons, and discipline. It's just like boot camp but with the necessary accommodations."
The soldiers themselves take the training very seriously. For many of them the training becomes a great source of pride. "I still remember with pride seeing my father come home in uniform," said Pvt. Yehezkel Dasht, one of the recent graduates. "There are people who spend their lives keeping us safe, and that's why we can sleep soundly at night. Because of that it's very important for me to serve. So regardless of whether they say I can or not, I'll do it."
"Sometimes they feel like we make it too easy for them," said Lt. Tal Sabag, a company commander in the basic training course. "Commanders are afraid to be too harsh but the soldiers demand harder discipline. This enlistment was not trivial, you have to think ahead and be responsible for the soldiers. There is a delicate relationship."
For some of the trainees, their medical problems can be very serious, existing as an obstacle for most of their lives. But for many, this extra challenge is just another difficulty to overcome. "Why should I be any different? The army is part of life in Israel. It's an experience. I am a part of this country and should be like everyone else," said Pvt. Hofit Klein, another recent graduate. "This disease has held me back so much during school, but now I want to overcome it, so I'm going to go and do the army, I may even serve longer."
"What we hear most from the soldiers is their pride in serving, and the gratitude for the opportunity to enlist, to be given a chance to contribute. They are highly motivated," said Lt. Col. Azariah. "This is a place where the military is very encouraging. We encourage them because they are good soldiers and we need them in the army. "