An Israeli soldier who threatened to commit suicide was kept on base by his company commander, as punishment. In a written exchange with the soldier’s mother the commander wrote: “If your son would have wanted to die he would have jumped off the roof,” adding: “You should give him two slaps.”
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The soldier joined the Israel Defense Forces armored corps three weeks ago. When he was first drafted, he told commanders that he had a fear of heights and of enclosed spaces. He subsequently spoke with a mental health officer, saying he would find it difficult to continue to serve as a combat soldier because of these limitations.
The mental health decided that the soldier was fit to serve but could not carry a gun or be in enclosed spaces.
For two weeks the soldier repeatedly appealed to his commanders and, according to his family, his problems were not addressed. Further meetings with the mental health officer were postponed for a variety of reasons.
A week ago the soldier went home, where he threatened to commit suicide if he was forced to return to his base. He also swallowed some pills and his parents rushed him to hospital. He was treated there and met a hospital psychiatrist, who approved his return to the base but clarified that the soldier urgently needed to see the military mental health physician. He was prohibited from carrying a weapon out of concern that he would harm himself.
The soldier and his parents received assurances that he would meet the military doctor, but this did not happen. When he inquired about the meeting, the soldier was answered in a humiliating manner, he reported.
The soldier then cut his wrists, using scissors. In response, the commander appointed two other soldiers to watch over him. With that, he was confined to base and did not go home for the weekend on Thursday, while the rest of his company did.
Following this incident, the soldier’s mother turned to the company commander and asked that her son receive urgent medical attention.
“My son is under your responsibility and you’re obliged to urgently see to it that he gets help” she wrote. “His threats need to be taken seriously. I ask you to appeal to the battalion commander today and tell him this is urgent. I beg you not to take my son’s life lightly.”
The mother sent the company commander the messages her son had sent her, in which he threatened to commit suicide. In response, the commander wrote her: “Your son will be out tomorrow — he didn’t deserve time off starting Thursday because of his actions. If he’d wanted to commit suicide he would have jumped off a roof and not done what he did. I don’t have a million combatants, we need them here in the armored corps. You need to give him two slaps.”
After an appeal by Haaretz the soldier met the mental health officer Monday.
In a statement, the IDF Spokesman’s Unit said “the soldier is receiving treatment in his unit and his commanders are in close touch with him and are addressing his needs. Out of respect for his privacy we cannot give details but we emphasize that the soldier met with the relevant medical personnel.” With regard to the mother’s exchange with the commander, the spokesman said that “this exchange exceeded what was expected of him and the incident will be investigated.”