The Cognitively Disabled Soldiers Who Handle an Elite IDF Unit’s Most Sensitive Materials

In the U.S., people have been excluded from military service for such minor physical defects as flat feet. Israel, by contrast, has long taken the attitude that every citizen has something to contribute to the people’s army. Most recently, a group of young men and women who suffer from such conditions as autism and deaf-mutism have been assigned to the prestigious and secretive 8200 Unit, responsible for cyberwarfare, where they help to destroy and dispose of computer hardware containing classified information. Lior Ohana speaks with some of the team’s members:

We follow Chief Warrant Officer David, [a pseudonym for the supervising officer], through the gates of the scrapping factory. Piles of shiny equipment pass by us behind huge signs labeled “Classified” and “Top Secret.”

“Nice to meet you, I’m Shai, thirty-three years old from Tel Aviv,” a volunteer on the autism spectrum, holding a large screwdriver, introduces himself. “I live with my mom and dad. I really love taking things apart, and that’s why I love being here, and I also love playing on the computer, which goes along with what I do here. Come, let me teach you. First, we need to remove all the screws from the computer drive and search for the hard disk that contains everything we’re not supposed to keep.”

“I’m from Ra’anana, and my dad is also a lieutenant colonel, and I wanted to follow him to the army and volunteer,” says A., twenty. “I enlisted in Unit 8200, and since then I’ve been dismantling, assisting with machines, but mainly sorting, doing what needs to be done. I contribute to the country. . . . That’s what I wanted to do the most. I enlisted, put on the uniform, received a beret, and I’m so happy to be like my dad.”

From the small but significant factory, David and his colleagues primarily want to convey an important message: “There is no shortage of work in all areas of the army,” explains David. “We need more manpower, not just for ourselves but for the entire army. These soldiers here teach us and assist us in an exceptional way.”

Read more at Ynet

More about: IDF, Israeli society


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount