RIWC_PARA_A045 Israel Learning Disability soldiers
Becoming a soldier: The process
of inclusion of individuals with ID
in the military
Dr. Shirli Werner
Paul Baerwald School of Social Work and Social
Welfare, Hebrew University
RI World Congress, Edinburgh, October 25-27, 2016
Research funding: The Shalem Fund for Development of Services for People
with Intellectual disabilities in the Local Councils
• Current legislation and policies advocate for full and
effective social inclusion and community participation.
• In Israel, military service is a mandatory and
normative civil obligation. It is integral for integration
within the Israeli society.
• Military service plays an important role in the social
status of individuals.
• However, adolescents with ID are usually exempt from
military service. This brings about loss of self-esteem
and feelings of exclusion for individuals and their
Equal in Uniform
Since 2007, the project “Equal in Uniform” has brought
to the recruitment of individuals with ID.
(1) Akim Israel
(2) Ministry of Social
Affairs and Social Services
(3) Israeli Defense Forces
Equal in Uniform
(1) Opportunity for people
with ID to enlist and
complete regular and
meaningful military service.
(2) Enhance self-esteem and
(3) Psychological benefits to
other family members.
(4) Change in societal attitudes
towards individuals with ID.
(1) Allow people with ID to
take part in this central
according to their
abilities and needs.
(2) Bring contact between
people within the
49 qualitative interviews with 31 individuals with ID
- Experience at the military recruiting center.
- Difference between “volunteer” and “soldier”.
- Role in the military.
- Relationship with other soldiers and commander.
- Meaningful experiences.
- What they least enjoyed.
Phases in the process of
1. Expectations stage: Initial
2. Uncertainty stage
3. Realization stage
Expectations stage: Initial socialization
• “Slowly you get used to what it means to serve
in the military. I've never been there, so I
don't know. I mean, apart from the boot-camp,
even though I was wearing a uniform, it's not
the same. Boot-camp is a preparation. “
• “I would meet a new commander and friends, I
will learn things, whatever the commander tells
me I'll do, I don't do what I want. The military
is a big responsibility. I will need to wear the
uniform, take the military badge and leave on
time, so I won't be late.”
Uncertainty stage: A liminal identity
• “I don't even know if there's a date for my
recruitment. I don't know. It's not easy. We
don't even know if we get recruited, you know? I
don't even know if I go to the recruitment base
in Be'er Sheva or in Tel Hashomer. I don't even
know what job I will be given. I don't know.”
• “I am waiting for service. I am very much looking
forward to this. I already want to be recruited.
This is my dream and I want to feel like a real
soldier. Not a fake soldier. I came here to
contribute to the country, to be a real soldier.”
• "I'm not a volunteer anymore... I'm now a real
soldier, I'm not a toy soldier."
• “I help them file forms, I organize the paper
shredding and many more things, arrange the
laundry, I throw the garbage. When there's a lot
of work, I stay to help them till late hours.“
• "They are very satisfied from my progress at
work... they notice what I do, I do with love; I do
anything they require of me. I don't just do
anything I feel like."
• Inclusion of individuals with ID in the military
allowed them to deal with issues of identity
• Gradual socialization into the military was
helpful to slowly integrate individuals into
their new roles and identity.
• Inclusion specifically within the military is
important given its centrality within the
• Military symbols were found to be important
forces in identity formation by acting as
‘proof’ of the new identity.
• Receiving ongoing positive input from others
for their success was important for identity
development. This finding supports previous
research showing that how an individual is
perceived by others in society is key in
• Findings support the Social Role Valorization
theory in that individuals experience benefits
by holding socially-valued roles.
• Findings support studies showing that one of
the main motivations to serve in the army is
the wish to fulfill personal needs and develop
• Findings support previous studies showing
that job-site experiences and productive work
are important defining characteristic for
individuals with ID.