Conscripting youths for National Service works well in Israel - why not try it here, Sancheska Dorsett suggests . . .
Six men were murdered in the Bahamas over the weekend, including a 15-year-old who police described as a “prolific offender”.
These murders all took place within 48 hours and brought the country’s tally to 26 for the year, according to The Tribune’s records. The killings also marked 12 murders in 12 days in the capital.
Irrespective of circumstance, population density and whatever measurement we use to evaluate the violent crime rate of a given area - these numbers are cause for alarm.
Following my return from a trip to Israel in December, I wrote describing my experience and listing what I thought our small developing country could learn from a nation many consider the “startup capital of the world”.
My initial focus was on the lessons we can learn by diversifying the Bahamian economic portfolio, but there were also many socio-economic lessons that translate from Israel to the Bahamas.
With our country gripped by the fear of crime and the search for solutions seemingly endless, the Bahamas can adopt a similar model to Israel’s compulsory military service. I have seen firsthand the amazing benefits it can have for a developing country.
We are losing scores of our young men to violence or incarceration. Our criminals are no longer afraid of prosecution and there seems to be no respect for the rule of law and for our fellow man. A programme of mandatory National Service can be a possible aid, if not solution, to the scourge of crime.
The logistics of the implementation of such a programme will undoubtedly warrant lengthy discussion, but the general sense is that if these young men and women were gainfully employed from the day they graduated from high school, it would alleviate the idle time and sense of uselessness and desperation that often leads to crime.
Programmes like these also establish a sense of national pride and, while not a tangible measurement, love of country leads to a generation that would do anything to preserve the values and reputation of their country. We have failed to witness this with our current generation, seemingly oblivious to the fact that a rise in crime has a direct and adverse effect on the country’s tourism product.
A rite of passage in Israel, when someone turns 18, is being drafted into the military. Men serve three years and women normally serve half of that time. Officers (men or women) are signed for an additional year for the privilege of attending the Officers’ Training School. Some (men and women) then remain in service as a vocation and are entitled to early retirement at 40, at which time they typically embark on a second career.
According to Mira Marcus, International Press Director at the Tel Aviv Municipality and one of my tour guides, the military service not only teaches you “the art of war” but also develops a love for country, a love for self and “you grow up pretty quickly”. She said the Israeli Army is “full of innovation” and “is a great head start for life”.
Mrs Marcus also said she believes Israel’s compulsory military service is one of the reasons there are lots of successful businesses thriving in the country because the military not only provides early training in sophisticated technologies but it also teaches responsibility and courage.
“It shows you all aspects of society,” she said. “You get to meet people from different backgrounds, instead of just knowing the people from your high school. It really makes us grow up very fast and opens up our mind to other sectors which I think is rare in other communities,” she said.
“Going into the army is much more than just thinking about fighting. It is mandatory but there is high motivation to enter. It creates a very involved society; here we have higher voting rates because people go into the army, they get a broader picture and we have high volunteer rates among Israelis and social enterprises and I think its because of the army. It influences you to do something beyond only what’s good for you, you think about what is good for your country and what is good for society. We go into the army for defence reasons in general but a lot of people learn who they are and what they want to do by joining the service.”
Last year, after a crime-filled weekend in the Bahamas, renowned psychologist Dr David Allen called for the imposition of mandatory national service. The suggestion was among a list of recommendations to combat crime based on the findings of his community-based outreach project “The Family: People Helping People” in an advertisement in national daily newspapers.
Dr Allen said: “Each person must spend some time working in the best interest of our little country, the Bahamas. For young people coming out of high school, there should be a period of national service from one to two years in duration. Older persons should be willing to contribute several weekends per year.”
Dr Allen suggested that, once you are not in college and do not have a job, you should have to enter national service. I agree with this concept. Like I said earlier I have no idea how the programme would work but we must all agree that something needs to be done.
A National Service programme has its detractors, possibly seen as a draconian measure, but in our current state those measures may be necessary. We need new and innovative ways to reach our young people and if a sense of respect for laws and country cannot be achieved voluntarily, the idea of mandatory implementation should be the natural progression.
After another violent weekend is splashed across the front page of today’s Tribune, crime continues to dominate the headlines and paint a grim picture of our future. National Service can be the catalyst for a turnaround and improve the product of the Bahamas’ most valuable asset - not its sun, sand and sea but its people.
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