Australian visiting Israel jailed for draft dodging

Natalie Gershoig, 27, spends Yom Kippur in military prison after failing to enlist for mandatory army service while living abroad

Illustrative photo of Eshel Prison. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of Eshel Prison. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Australian national Natalie Gershoig was arrested for draft evasion Thursday and spent the Yom Kippur weekend in a military jail after she arrived in Israel to visit her mother.

The Australian-born Gershoig, 27, lived with her mother in Israel for four years as a teenager before returning to Australia, where she now resides permanently with her husband.

After landing at Ben-Gurion Airport last week, Gershoig was informed by authorities that she was required to report to the IDF recruitment office to determine her eligibility to serve in the army, Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported.

After she arrived at the recruitment office Thursday, Gershoig was arrested for draft evasion.

During a hearing later on Thursday, IDF prosecutors told the judge that although Gershoig left Israel for Australia before her draft day, she received a draft notice while still living in Israel, making her eligible for mandatory military service.

Her Facebook page, which includes several pro-Israel links and videos, includes a picture of her from 2007 wearing a friend’s IDF uniform and pointing his rifle.

On Thursday’s hearing, a military judge informed Gershoig that a warrant was issued for her arrest after she failed to show up on her scheduled recruitment day, and detained her in a military jail for five days pending a final decision, an IDF spokesperson told Yedioth.

Although leaving Israel before the age of military recruitment exempts Israeli expats from the mandatory IDF service, section 94 of Israel’s Security Service Law considers drafted soldiers who fail to show up for recruitment draft evaders.

Draft evaders face sentencing in a military court, where disciplinary proceedings may include a criminal conviction.

Family members say that Gershoig, who spent Yom Kippur behind bars, is in “severe trauma and feels humiliated,” according to the paper.

An IDF spokesperson told the paper that Gershoig had been contacted by the IDF after returning to Australia and was told of her obligations.

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