IDF Concludes Amnesty Program for Return of Equipment, No Questions Asked
The Israel Defense Forces recently ended an amnesty program that encouraged former soldiers to return equipment they had been holding on to illegally, Canada’s CBC News reported on Friday.
IDF soldiers are mandated to return uniforms, weapons and ammunition at the end of their service and reserve duty, but some veterans hold on to equipment for years. Israel’s military said the four-week-long program allowed for the return of gear “without identification and without standing trial for holding.”
“I do not believe people take it for criminal reasons,” said Lt.-Col. Victor Lisha, a logistics commander in the IDF. “It’s really just to remember rifles they had with them… and they took it home to show their children and to tell the story. But that’s still against the law and they must return it.”
Some of the gear dates back nearly 70 years, to the 1948 War of Independence, according to the IDF. Former Israeli soldier David Harrison returned a green snowsuit, a sleeping bag and an old uniform he discovered in his basement while cleaning for Passover. He said he used the snowsuit a few times while doing reserve duty in the Golan Heights during the winter.
The IDF said that as part of the amnesty program, it received 57 weapons, including rifles and pistols; 1.3 million pieces of ammunition; 220 pairs of binoculars and night-vision glasses; and some other 27,681 articles of what the military described as “general equipment,” including uniforms, boots, sleeping bags and tents.
Israeli media reported that a former soldier returned a jeep he had painted black and that he would drive on back roads in order to avoid detection. However, the military denied receiving such an item.
“I didn’t see a jeep,” Lisha said. “But if it does come, we’ll be waiting for it with open arms.”
Military service in Israel is mandatory, as is reserve duty. Men serve for three years, while women for two, though there are exceptions. The continual annual service, typically for a month each year — as well as deployment during wartime — has led to a situation in which soldiers tend to hold on to much of their gear, so as to have it readily available when they are called up. In addition, when reserve soldiers are told they can return home earlier than their scheduled date, they often fail to make a special trip to another part of the country to return their uniforms and other gear, though they are required to do so.