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


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