Eighty-six new recruits who arrived at the IDF’s induction center earlier this week refused to be drafted into the Armored Corps, asked to be placed in other combat roles, and said they preferred to go to jail than serve on a tank.

The new soldiers, who make up almost half of the November draftees placed in the Armored Corps, were tried on the spot and put under arrest for refusing an order.

Abigail, the mother of one of the new soldiers, explained that “it’s not because he wanted a job in an office or because he wanted to dodge the draft. He wanted to be a combat soldier and is very motivated. We even hid the fact he has a medical problem so he can draft into a combat role—but not to the Armored Corps.”

On Wednesday, the IDF sent soldiers from the Armored Corps’ 77th Battalion to talk to the young soldiers and convince them to join their ranks.

“We’re not going to grovel or beg them,” an IDF official explained. “There are many among them who refused out of ignorance, because they simply didn’t know anything about serving on a tank, the many advantages it has, and how unique this kind of service is compared to others. The representatives we sent to them were able to convince a small part of them to go to the Armored Corp training base, but others remain in their refusal.”

Yedioth Ahronoth has learned that the IDF’s efforts to incorporate women in combat roles in the Armored Corps—a move that caused much contention last week—is the result of a serious shortage in manpower in the corps that is expected to only become worse in the coming years.

“There’s no willingness to draft into the Armored Corps, and that’s not new,” an Armored Corps officer explained. “But this time we reached a new record. I think (these soldiers) should be punished severely, to deter others. The new draftees prefer to go to the infantry battalions that have better PR. There are false stigmas attached to us.”

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According to some of the refusnik soldiers, many of them were aided by a private Facebook group that offers help and advice on how to avoid being drafted into the combat units they were placed in.

The group, which has 120 members, is called “Induction Center Refusniks—Combat,” and includes soldiers who offer advice based on their own personal experience.

One soldier responded to a poster who asked how he could get to the unit he wants with: “Go to jail a few times, eventually they’ll give you want.”

A woman who was enlisted in November asked “Anyone knows someone who refused and ended up as an instructor?”

Another man, who also enlisted last month, wrote: “I’m enlisting in the Combat Intelligence Collection Corps tomorrow. I want to refuse and get a position that enables me to come home every night. What’s the way to do it? Can anyone explain what to do?”

One of the other group members replied to him with: “You go to the sorting officer and tell him you’re not happy with the position you’ve been given. He’ll give you other options. You can either take one, or refuse to go on the bus (to the training base).”

Another soldier provided group members with tips from his own experience: “I refused to be drafted into the Artillery Corps. I know what happens at every stage, and how to get a better position. And just so you know, if you want a different combat role, you will either get lucky and get another position quickly or sit in jail at least twice. It’s not easy to get another combat role, but in general it’s possible.”

The group’s manager even bragged: “A group for refusniks was opened and there are now 86 refusniks at the induction center. Coincidence? I think not.”

One of the members of the group explained to Ynet that “We’re not encouraging a rebellion, just helping each other feel fulfillment by our military service. A lot of soldiers fall between the cracks because of the system’s stubbornness, bad placements, and lack of compatibility. For years now that new recruits refuse and get jailed. Now, we’re just helping each other, and we have nothing to be ashamed of.”

The IDF Spokesman’s Office said in response: “The draftees’ placement was done based on the army’s needs, while making the utmost effort to take their desires and aspirations into consideration. The IDF condemns the refusniks and works to put an end to the trend.”

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