Forty-six soldiers were restricted to base, three are to be court-martialed and two officers were knocked down in rank — as punishment for pretending to be suffering from a skin disease.
“The behavior of these soldiers does not match what we expect from IDF soldiers,” the IDF spokesperson said in a statement. “Special actions were taken in order to alleviate what the army feared was a mass outbreak at an IDF base. This cost the army precious resources, and damaged our ability to carry out our overall mission of being ready for action to defend Israelis.” The spokesperson did not speculate on why the soldiers would do this, but sources told Yediot Acharonot that the reason was that they wanted to take some time off from the army.
The story began last week, when some 200 soldiers complained to medics that they were suffering from a skin disease called impetigo. Characterized by sores near the nose or mouth, impetigo is generally contagious, and is easily spread in crowded, hot and close conditions — exactly the situation IDF soldiers find themselves in while on active duty.
IDF medical authorities, concerned that they had a full-fledged epidemic on their hands, sent dozens of doctors and medical personnel to the Shizafon army base in southern Israel, where the outbreak occurred. Several cases of impetigo were indeed detected, and many of the soldiers claiming to be suffering from the disease were cursorily examined and sent home for rest and relaxation.
However, on follow-up examinations, it appeared that many of the soldiers had made up the story — using some makeup to apply the “sores” to the appropriate places on their faces. Medical officials were fuming at being fooled, Yediot Acharonot reported, and an investigation into how the doctors and staff were fooled has been opened.
Meanwhile, the army is not letting the matter go so easily. Forty-six soldiers are restricted to base for as long as a month, and future furloughs will be very carefully weighed, the IDF spokesperson said; meanwhile, several higher ranking soldiers found themselves losing rank over the matter. “We intend to ensure that those involved in this matter learn a lesson,” the IDF spokesperson said. “Those who were legitimately suffering from the disease have been treated, and are back to their regular routine.”