Declining Enlistment in U.S. and Israeli Militariescsudhbulletin October 24, 2019 0 COMMENTS
By Jordan Darling, Editor-in-Chief
The sun beat down on the tops of our heads as the breeze stirred the long grass that tangled itself around the metallic signs and rusted barbed wire lining the cliff of the Golan Heights, separating it from the Syrian border.
Zohar Kapustin pointed to a far off spot on the other side of the heights indicating where he was stationed as a member of the IDF Rocket Artillery in 2013.
“The Syrian Civil War was raging and Assad [threatened] to use chemical weapons and Obama threatened to bomb Assad if he did that…We were somewhere in the West Bank and we were called to get here and get ready,” Kapustin said.
Kapustin and his unit were stationed off the Syrian border for over a week in 2013 waiting for Assad to use chemical weapons on the Syrian rebels. On the night Assad dropped the chemical weapons, Kapustin’s commander told them to remain vigilant and wait for orders. Orders that never came, rather Kapustin’s unit was told to stand down. An intense moment in Kapustin’s military journey, a journey that started in 2009.
At 16 Kapustin walked into a recruiter’s office for the first time, prepared with a list of his top choices that would propel him down a three year path in the Israel Defense Force.
“I started thinking about what I really wanted to do in the army…I do want to go into a combat role but the only thing left for me was the anti-air artillery,” Kapustin said.
Anti-Air Artillery would assure that Kapustin would be out of combat but it wasn’t the role he envisioned.
Kapustin, as an only child, needed his parents’ signature before being assigned to a combat unit, which is when he came to a decision to join an artillery unit and convinced his parents it was the best option.
Like many before him and many after Kapustin would leave for the IDF at 18 prepared to complete his military service and if necessary lay down his life in the defense of the State of Israel.
Israel is one of 26 countries including Armenia, Brazil, and Norway that has a compulsory military service and one of the five countries to conscript both men and women into military service according to a 2019 report from PEW Research.
In the same report, it was stated that the United States is one of the 191 countries that does not require military service but one of the 23 countries out of that 191 that has a military draft even though the draft is not currently in use.
Military service has declined in recent years in both countries even with compulsory military service in Israel.
In a 2016 article from Jewish Telegraphic Agency, it was reported that 72 percent of Israelis who were conscripted into the military joined the IDF, this was a 3.5 percent decrease from previous years. Counted in the percent of Israelis who did not join the military are those undertaking religious studies, women with children, and those that were not found to be physically or mentally fit for active duty. This is compared to the low percentage of young Americans who said they would be willing to join the military.
“The most recent internal Defense Department surveys, conducted in late 2017, show the percentage of young people who say they will likely join the military is at 11 percent ― the lowest point in nearly 10 years,” reported the Marine Times on Nov. 2018.
The drop in military participation is surprising considering the United States and Israel both made the top ten list in a 2019 article with World Economic Forum where the U.S. reportedly spent 3.2 percent of its GDP on military spending with Israel coming in at 4.3 percent in 2018.
A drop in enlistment has not stopped Kapustin’s pride in his service or his feeling of the necessity of military service. “The military is the melting pot of Israeli society. The Israeli society is very diverse, the military is the thing that unites us. Even if you come from a different background you come into the military and you serve with people from all sorts of different cultures and that’s part of what makes the Israeli society, this one thing that is common for everyone,” said Kapustin.
After leaving the IDF in 2014 Kapustin went on to join the reserves and is still currently an active reservist.