Defense Minister Ehud Barak praised Israel's youth Monday, saying they were the country's source of strength, and promised to take steps against those who try to dodge army service. Barak spoke in a gathering he hosted for teenagers and disabled soldiers in his sukkah in the Kirya army base in Tel Aviv.
Barak called draft evasion "shameful and embarrassing" and declared that the defense establishment will take on the responsibility of combating this phenomenon.
The former IDF chief of staff commended the youths in attendance, which included members of Aharai, an organization that prepares youths for induction into the army, for being exemplary citizens and serving as role models for their peers.
Second Lieutenant Yonatan Cohen, a wheelchair-bound officer in the Education Corps, spoke at the gathering and said that people like him proved that you don't have to have a perfect medical profile in order to contribute to the IDF. The officer also said he hoped that efforts to combat draft dodging will be effective in lowering the record number of youths who evade military service in Israel.