November 25, 2010, Updated September 27, 2012

On Monday, for the first time in its history, autistic soldiers joined the ranks of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

Zohar Pe’er (21) was one of a group of 10 young men with autism who became IDF soldiers.

Zohar doesn’t generally express much emotion, but his mother, Efrat Etzion-Pe’er, says he whispered to her “This is great,” as he prepared for the big day. She said she was waiting expectantly to see her son in uniform, adding, “He doesn’t show many signs, but I know he’s waiting for the ceremony and wants to wear the uniform.”

Following a short recruitment ceremony, the new soldiers headed to various equipment bases to begin volunteering in the workshops.

The decision to allow the autistic teens to volunteer was brought about by teachers at the Leah Rabin Middle School in Petah Tikva, which caters to autistic teens. Teachers at the school believe their students have much to contribute to the state.

Captain Moran Cherney-Cohen, who chairs the Central Command’s volunteer department, says that “In addition to professional trainers who will accompany them [the new recruits] during their first days, there will also be officers who underwent special training with them at all times.”

A few months ago the Hebrew press reported that youths suffering from mental disorders can now volunteer in the IDF as well.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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