In today's Jerusalem Post, David Graniewitz mourns the demise of Miluim. Under proposals made by a committee headed by Defense Minister and former Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz, the discharge date from combat units would be lowered and the miluim required of these units would only involve training as opposed to active duty.
Amongst the arguments that Graniewitz puts forward against the change are: the need to build cohesive fighting units; the change in the image of the people's army, particularly as portrayed in the media; and the use of miluim as a reality check, particularly with reference to our relationship with the Palestinians.
I received a brown envelope from the army with dread this week. Usually the envelope heralds something unpleasant - being away from home for an extended period. I do miluim with a great bunch of guys and actually quite enjoy being away from the office and in the open air but there are significant problems associated. As it happens, this particular missive informed me that my services won't be required this year (which I'll believe when we get to December 31st) and that they are cutting the amount of time we'll be serving - I breathed a sigh of relief.
As a single man, working for a miluim friendly organisation, I don't significantly suffer when I'm away from home and work; someone covers in the office and my flat mate feeds the fish and waters the plants whilst I work on my suntan from the back of a jeep and catch up on some reading. For a lot of the guys with whom I serve however, it is a good deal more problematic. For them, miluim means leaving their wives to look after the children for an extended period; it means missing out on vital study time and exams at University; it means businesses going to the wall for the self employed. In that miluim is a burden being shouldered by a shrinking minority of the population, it also serves to build an unhealthy resentment against those who don't serve, who often view those who do as freierim (suckers).
From the point of view of the country, my understanding is that the original vision of miluim was that there should be a large, well trained force which could be be called on in times of emergency only; not used on a year by year basis to fill the gaps left by the regular army. The use of miluim units as it stands today, costs the State a huge amount of money in salaries and lost productivity. From an economic viewpoint it is logical to try to reduce the burden on reserve units and it seems that the bottom line has finally proved to be the important factor.
It is important to put a stress on keeping the reserves trained to a high standard and I fully support the idea of call ups for training on a regular basis. I and those with whom I serve, will for the most part continue to turn up, kit bags in hand whenever and wherever we are called. We will however, be more than happy if our services are not required and we can put our uniforms in mothballs.