Army offers amnesty to deserters for festival season
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Army offers amnesty to deserters for festival season

Israelis overseas who have not served in IDF may visit until October 31, while reservists who refused call-up will have criminal charges waived

A military police officer speaks with imprisoned Israeli soldiers at Prison Four, Israel's largest military prison, located at the Tzrifin military base on Aril 26, 2018. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
A military police officer speaks with imprisoned Israeli soldiers at Prison Four, Israel's largest military prison, located at the Tzrifin military base on Aril 26, 2018. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

The IDF has said that it will offer amnesty to any Israeli citizens abroad who left the country without serving if they wish to visit the country for the new year holiday season.

Deserters who fled overseas to avoid service, or left the country as children and failed to return for the draft, will be permitted to return without fear of being arrested, provided they leave the country again before the end of October, the army said.

While in Israel, deserters will also be allowed to regularize their status with the army and either join active service or apply for exemptions.

The army offered a similar amnesty earlier this year to celebrate Israel’s 70th Independence Day, and dozens of people took advantage of the deal to sort out their status.

Similarly, the army is offering amnesty for those living in Israel who failed to show up for reserve duty. Anyone who appears before military police before October 31 will have any criminal charges waived, and only be disciplined. However, the army said that amnesty does not apply to those who fled from an emergency call-up of reserve duty (tzav 8).

Army service is compulsory for Israeli citizens, so even those who left the country at a young age and live abroad permanently must return to either serve in the army or receive an exemption. Those who do not are often afraid to return for a visit due to the risk of being arrested by military police.

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, begins on Sunday night, and is followed 10 days later by Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. Shortly after is the week-long festival of Sukkot, which ends on the evening of September 30.

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