In the six or so months that the coronavirus pandemic has been wreaking havoc in Israel, the Israel Defense Forces’ Personnel Directorate is noticing a sharp drop in the number of soldiers who go AWOL, Israel Hayom has learned.

With more than a million Israelis unemployed, the military seems to be holding onto its people at a higher rate than usual. This might be a cause-and-effect situation, as there are no lucrative side jobs available to tempt soldiers away from their compulsory service.

In March of this year, when the COVID-19 crisis began, the number of AWOL soldiers (282) was up by 2 percent compared to March 2019. In April 2020, the number of AWOL soldiers dropped by 25 percent (189 compared to 249 in April 2019), and in May that number dropped by another seven percent (227 AWOL soldiers compared to 347 in May 2019).

June saw the number plummet by another 35 percent, with 227 soldiers AWOL compared to 347 in June 2019, and the pattern repeated in July (223 AWOL soldiers compared to 260 in July 2019) and August (with 179 AWOL soldiers compared to 305 in August 2019). September 2020 saw no change.

The IDF noted that since the start of the coronavirus crisis, the military has expanded assistance for soldiers in financial distress and cut down on the bureaucratic processes entailed in applying for aid. The military thinks that these factors, in addition to the lack of employment opportunities, have made illegal “vacations” from military service less enticing.

“Soldiers who returned to their units will not face prison time and will not carry any criminal record,” the IDF promised.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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