Autistic Soldiers Find Their Place in the IDF

Jan. 20 2023

While a diagnosis of autism generally leads to an exemption from military service, autistic Israelis are nonetheless welcome to join their country’s armed forces as volunteers. A program called Ro’im Raḥok (Seeing from a Distance) has since 2013 been providing specialized training to prepare people with autism for enlistment. Joshua Zitser reports:

Autistic volunteers are assigned to units where they are deemed to have a comparative advantage—usually military intelligence. Though military intelligence and analysis are vital to every modern army, Israel places a particularly high value on it. . . . In return for volunteering, recruits with autism are offered the skills and connections that could help ease them into an independent future working in civilian professions.

Military divisions in the UK, the U.S., and Singapore, as well as civilian industries in Israel, have shown interest in developing the model. . . . So far, more than 300 soldiers have been recruited from the program to the IDF and serve across 27 different units.

The first unit to recruit from the program was the classified Unit 9900—a prestigious visual-intelligence outfit. Unit 9900’s Major R., [whose full name has been withheld for security reasons], was approached a decade ago about including graduates of Ro’im Raḥok’s aerial-photo-analysis course. He said he agreed even though he didn’t really know what autism was at the time. His unit, he said, needed strong photo analyzers to support its secretive work.

Major R. said he noticed early on that many autistic soldiers seemed to have a natural aptitude for aerial-photo analysis. His neurotypical soldiers easily got distracted, he said, whereas the autistic soldiers seemed able to hyperfocus on the tasks at hand. “Most of them aren’t interested in their surroundings. They don’t want to talk to their friends; they want to sit and work,” Major R. said.

Read more at Business Insider

More about: IDF, Israeli society


In the Aftermath of a Deadly Attack, President Sisi Should Visit Israel

On June 3, an Egyptian policeman crossed the border into Israel and killed three soldiers. Jonathan Schanzer and Natalie Ecanow urge President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to respond by visiting the Jewish state as a show of goodwill:

Such a dramatic gesture is not without precedent: in 1997, a Jordanian soldier opened fire on a group of Israeli schoolgirls visiting the “Isle of Peace,” a parcel of farmland previously under Israeli jurisdiction that Jordan leased back to Israel as part of the Oslo peace process. In a remarkable display of humanity, King Hussein of Jordan, who had only three years earlier signed a peace agreement with Israel, traveled to the Jewish state to mourn with the families of the seven girls who died in the massacre.

That massacre unfolded as a diplomatic cold front descended on Jerusalem and Amman. . . . Yet a week later, Hussein flipped the script. “I feel as if I have lost a child of my own,” Hussein lamented. He told the parents of one of the victims that the tragedy “affects us all as members of one family.”

While security cooperation [between Cairo and Jerusalem] remains strong, the bilateral relationship is still rather frosty outside the military domain. True normalization between the two nations is elusive. A survey in 2021 found that only 8 percent of Egyptians support “business or sports contacts” with Israel. With a visit to Israel, Sisi can move beyond the cold pragmatism that largely defines Egyptian-Israeli relations and recast himself as a world figure ready to embrace his diplomatic partners as human beings. At a personal level, the Egyptian leader can win international acclaim for such a move rather than criticism for his country’s poor human-rights record.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: General Sisi, Israeli Security, Jordan