According to a recent survey commissioned by Israel’s Anti-Drug Authority, some 9% of IDF soldiers performing their mandatory service said they drink alcoholic beverages at military bases, in violation of army orders. What once was a marginal phenomenon mostly confined to home front bases is spreading across Israel’s military, including among elite units and senior officers.
An IDF General Staff order forbids the drinking of alcoholic beverages at military bases. Moreover, soldiers are not allowed to drink outside their bases ahead of operational activity or while carrying weapons. However, the orders are increasingly violated at bases nationwide, with officers often preferring to deal with the matter internally, rather than seeing troops serving time in military prison.
One soldier interviewed for the story admitted that drinking on base has become widespread. “Usually we drink vodka, but I personally drink whatever is there, he said, while also revealing that troops drink even when on high alert.
Another soldier, who serves in the elite Golani brigade, said some troops regularly take alcohol into outposts while on guard duty. “They mostly take vodka. It’s a regular procedure,” he said, adding that some commanders at the base are aware of the situation but turn a blind eye to it.
Yet another soldier said troops use a variety of hiding spots for stashing away their alcohol. “We have one guy who has his own private locker. Others put it under their bed…we drink at all sorts of hidden spots. If it’s on Friday we sit at the office or at the emergency warehouse.”
Brawls, sexual abuse
Several alcohol-related incidents in recent weeks alone shed light on the growing phenomenon. In one case, a female soldier serving at a central Israel base drank alcohol with a fellow soldier, who became intoxicated and apparently resorted to sexual abuse. The soldier is currently facing a trial before a military court. Earlier, three alcohol-related brawls were reported at different IDF facilities, while in three other cases soldiers were tried for drunk driving within their bases.
In another grave incident, a senior officer summoned one of his female subordinates to his office, offered her a drink, and later attempted to approach her sexually. The commander now faces a sexual assault investigation, but in any case has seen his military career draw to an end after violating the ban on alcohol.
In yet another case, an officer serving at a base holding advanced electronic equipment in central Israel was found to have allowed his soldiers to drink alcohol during a military trip, and on the same occasion also “cursed and behaved in a crude manner, while humiliating himself and the soldiers in the presence of civilians.”
The judges did not detail the commander’s actions, but female soldiers who participated in the trip in question said the officer, who was drunk, took off his pants at one point and exposed his rear-end to his stunned soldiers.
As noted, the phenomenon has also spread to the army’s most elite units. Earlier this year, five paratroopers serving near the Gaza border were found in possession of alcoholic drinks in their outpost. The troops were sent to 20 days in a military jail.
Officially, the IDF Spokesman’s Office claims that it only recorded a few cases a year where soldiers consume alcohol while on duty. However, in practice the army is aware of the issue has boosted its preventative and enforcement activity. Colonel Haim Sasson, commander of the IDF’s Investigative Military Police, says he is aware of the problem and its scope and that his unit performs hundreds of enforcement operations throughout the year.
However, the alcohol plague seems to have spread to the Military Police as well. A recent raid concluded with several bottles being seized in the room of one Military Police soldier, who was tried and sent to prison.
The IDF Spokesman’s Office issued the following response: “The IDF is a mirror of Israeli society, and as such, regrettably it also experiences cases of alcohol consumption among soldiers. Army orders forbid alcohol consumption during one’s military service, and recently these orders became stricter.”
The army added that it undertakes intensive efforts to address the issue in lectures and other activities among soldiers, in order to stress the danger inherent in alcohol abuse.
The full story was originally published by Yedioth Ahronoth