Hours after landing in Israel to start a new life here with his wife, 27-year-old Naftaly Schindler from Connecticut was arrested by the Israel Defense Forces for draft-dodging.
The couple - now rendered homeless because of the arrest - claims that the army had promised them this wouldn't happen.
Schindler, an Israeli-American, was arrested in June for not serving in the IDF. The oldest brother of seven, Schindler left Israel with his family in 2000, when he was 18. The family had immigrated to Israel four years earlier but subsequently returned to the U.S.
All Israelis are required to enlist into the army at the age of 18, except for certain exempt populations. Schindler, who was not exempt, was therefore listed as a deserter and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
It was while studying music at Yale University that Schindler met his future wife, Rachel. Since she wanted to make aliyah, the couple began addressing the unresolved problem with the army.
In May, Rachel and Naftaly Schindler say they met with an IDF representative, Gadi Agmon, at the Israeli consulate in New York. According to the couple, Agmon told them that Schindler "would not be arrested." Rachel, 24, says Agmon told them that her husband would serve in the army for six months.
The Schindlers flew to Israel on June 25. On arriving three days later at the Meitav induction base near Tel Hashomer, Naftaly was arrested and told he would be serving 12 months instead of six. A military court later sentenced him to 14 weeks and he now serving his sentence in Prison Four, where he's allowed one visitor a week.
With a third of his sentence off for good behavior, Schindler may be released before Rosh Hashanah. But Rachel, 24, says that since her husband's arrest, they have not received his army salary, on which they were dependent to make rent. For this reason, she has had to move out and live with her husband's aunt in Efrat.
Rachel says it seems the army "tricked" her husband into coming to Israel. "Naftaly wants to serve in the army, he came here to work everything out," she said. "Instead of tricking him into coming and making an example of him, I would have expected the army to try and help us," she added. "Naftaly did not handle the situation very well when he was 18, and he admitted this, but he came back. He wants to contribute."
Meanwhile, Rachel, who is training to become a teacher, is not permitted to work because she came on a student visa. She explains they had planned to settle in Israel first, and only then officially make aliyah. "Naftaly's arrest has created serious problems in our plans," she told Anglo File.
Following the arrest, the Schindlers - who were married in November and do not have any children - retained the services of a lawyer who tried to get the husband out of jail. This, coupled with other expenses and the lack of any income from the army, has meant they have had to eat up a considerable part of their savings, according to Rachel.
In talks with army authorities, Schindler offered to serve longer than 12 months if he is let out of prison, but his proposal was rejected. "He said that right now he's just wasting taxpayer's money, when he would like to contribute," Rachel said.
Despite the hardships that Schindler's unexpected incarceration has caused the couple, Rachel says they would still like to try to build a life here. "The problems haven't changed my love of Israel," she says. "Every wave of immigrants changes this country, and American immigrants do too. And maybe we can even help change things for the better."
In response, the IDF said that Schindler had not been promised that he would not be jailed, and that as a prisoner Schindler was not entitled to any payment from the IDF.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now