Israeli Army: Soldiers Use Social Media to Complain About Alienation

Conscripts are critical of their low salaries and a general feeling of estrangement, according to a study by IDF behavioral science researchers.

Soldiers at a train station in Haifa - being transported by bus. The government normally buses soldiers around after weekend furlough, lest they clog up trains Sunday morning. This  Saturday night and Sunday, soldiers needing a train from Haifa had no other choice but to be bused.
Gil Eliahu

The Israel Defense Forces says soldiers doing their compulsory service often use social media to voice complaints about the military, sometimes describing themselves as powerless and needing protection from the IDF itself.

The soldiers’ discussions online are about their salaries as well as general conditions, the IDF says.

Shira Rivnai, a researcher in the IDF’s behavioral science department, presented the findings last week at a conference at the Open University. She said particularly prominent were soldiers’ discussions on the jobs they would get after the military and the professional training the IDF would give them before they left.

She said soldiers were willing to overlook complaints about Israelis who did not serve in the army; instead, young soldiers simply wanted the military to improve salaries.

The conference, at the Open University’s Institute for Policy Analysis, was organized by Prof. Yagil Levy.

Another IDF behavioral science researcher, Maj. Moti Safrai, told the conference how the army has been adopting strict neoliberal principles in developing a new model for compulsory service.

For example, he said other armies lacked the diagnostic testing that the IDF performs for retirement issues. The IDF has different retirement ages for combat and noncombat officers, and sometimes provides better terms for the former.

All told, only one in 10 IDF officers retires at pensionable age.

The IDF has also introduced the principle of supply and demand for soldiers with certain skills. People with professions in demand, such as doctors and technology experts who can launch comparable careers in the civilian sector, receive financial incentives regarding retirement age. The hope is to get them to sign on for a long-term military career.