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Photo: Shaul Golan
IDF draft center
Photo: Shaul Golan
Arrived as a tourist and was arrested
Seven years ago, Shelly Mizrahi leaves Israel for US. Returns, only to be arrested for draft-dodging

Shelly Mizrahi didn't dream that her short vacation in Israel would end the way it did. Mizrahi, who left Israel with her family at 17 – right before being drafted, was arrested for draft-dodging and spent the past several days in a military prison in Tzrifin.

 

"It's appalling," raged her sister. "We sent her to Israel to relax and to cheer her up after a bad break up, and now she finds herself in uniform and in jail."

 

32 years ago, the Mizrahis left Israel for Miami, where Shelly was born and raised. At the age of six, the family decided to give Israel another shot, but after eleven years, returned to the United States.

 

At that time, Shelly was 17 and-a-half and about to be drafted to the army. Seven years have passed since then, during which she went to university and opened a business. Her family and her life are based in the United States.

 

Following a recent emotional crisis, her parents convinced her to go to Israel to take a break. Shelly agreed and approached the consulate in Miami in order to take care of her passport. The consulate informed her that she needed to sort out her military status with the army.

 

"They gave her a laconic letter, stating that she needed to arrive at the draft center after Yom Kippur," said her father, Moti.

 

Last Tuesday, at eight in the morning, Shelly arrived at the draft center, never imagining that she would leave there as a soldier.

 

"You're being drafted, you'll go through the procedures, get shots, receive equipment and then stand trial for draft dodging," soldiers in the office told her.

 

Shelly burst into tears. "What do you mean, being drafted? I have nothing here. My life is in the US. I came as a tourist."

 

Misled by the consulate

Her appeals didn't help and the IDF implemented its policy of classifying youths who leave the country while of draft age as absent without leave or as draft-dodgers. They are arrested upon arriving in the country, and jailed for one month per year of absence. Following the jail time, they serve in the army.

 

Shelly has been in jail for a week. Even advocate Shlomo Rahavi, who was hired by the Mizrahi family, hasn’t been able to free her.

 

"This is a problem faced by many young people who leave the country with their parents and, after several years, ask to come back for a visit. The consulates occasionally mislead them, telling them that they need to sort out the issue of their military service."

 

"However, they don't warn them that they will be arrested upon their arrival. This is what happened to Shelly, who wasn't draft-dodging, but rather behaving innocently," said Rahavi.

 

"What do they expect her to do at 17 and a half when her parents and siblings leave the country? Stay here alone?" her father asked. "We're not a family of draft-dodgers. Does someone think a whole family would leave the country only so their daughter wouldn't have to serve for two years? It's absurd!"

 

Yafit, Shelly's younger sister, who is also in Israel and trying to help her sister, said that Shelly is "completely broken up."

 

Slightly different version

The IDF has a slightly different version of the story: The IDF spokesperson's office stated that Shelly is an Israeli citizen, obligated to serve in the IDF according to the law. According to them, she arrived at the draft center for a preliminary call up and underwent tests for a number of positions.

 

"As her draft date approached, she asked to postpone it and go abroad. This was approved on the condition of her return. Prior to coming to the draft office (last week), she did not return to Israel as promised, and thus has been absent without leave for six years."

 

"During these years, she did not approach the IDF to sort out the issue," emphasized the spokesperson's office.

 

"When she arrived at the draft office, she refused to be absorbed into the military system and therefore, she was arrested according to Israeli law. We are currently debating the issue, as is done in these cases," they said.

 

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