Australian Woman Visits Mom in Israel, Winds Up in Military Jail

A military court is set to decide whether Natalie Gershoig has improperly evaded the draft.

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An Israel Defense Forces military jail.
Illustration: An Israel Defense Forces military jail.Credit: Nir Kafri

SYDNEY – A 27-year-old Australian who emigrated from Israel a decade ago was shocked to find herself in a military jail over Yom Kippur after arriving there to visit her mother.

On Monday, a military court will consider whether Natalie Gershoig has improperly evaded the draft. She was detained at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Thursday before being sent to a military recruitment office and then on to a special hearing, according to Israeli media reports.

She has spent the last five days – including Yom Kippur – at a military jail, her Russian-born father Alex Gershoig told Haaretz.

Even though the family has been traumatized by the affair, “one thing I’m glad about is that it’s a Jewish jail, so I’m sure she’ll be taken care of,” Gershoig said.

He added: “I don’t want to aggravate any situation by putting any undue pressure on the courts.” Natalie’s boyfriend is also with her in Israel.

Gershoig said his daughter – a former student at Yeshiva College in Sydney – had left Israel about 10 or 11 years ago when her father was gravely ill.

“She was there for a couple of years attending school,” Gershoig said. “I was near death so she flew back to Australia.”

Gershoig said he was not aware that his daughter had received any notification about military service from the army. But a warrant for her arrest was apparently issued after she failed to appear for mandatory service a decade ago.

“It’s very traumatic for all of us,” Gershoig said.

As Rabbi Eli Feldman of Young Adult Chabad in Sydney put it: “Natalie is a beloved member of our community and we are praying for a successful outcome to this unfortunate incident.”

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