On the occasion of the Ten Days of Awe (also known as the Ten Days of Repentance), the holy season that comes between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, President Isaac Herzog issued a special pardon for soldiers in the IDF and national-civil service who committed offenses in their youth and completed full rehabilitation processes during their service.
President Herzog and his wife Michal visited the Education Corps’ Havat Hashomer base together with Defense Minister Benny Gantz. The president announced the special Ten Days of Awe pardon outline, in coordination with the Minister of Defense, the Minister of Justice and the IDF. As part of his visit, the president met soldiers whose criminal records he had expunged.
The president’s call was intended to raise awareness among soldiers and those serving in national service who were convicted of crimes in their youth, expressed remorse, and completed a rehabilitation process during their service opening the way for them to apply for a pardon and have their record cleared.
The pardon is intended to remove labeling these young people as criminals and allow them to open a new page. Young people with a record face employment barriers, and this should make it easier for them to integrate into a more normal life. In addition, the special pardon scheme encourages military service, volunteering and contribution to society even for those who made mistakes as a teenager and want to make amends.
Referring to the pardons, President Herzog said: “The days of forgiveness, mercy and repentance emphasize the need of society and the state to provide an opportunity for a second chance, for correction and forgiveness. In reality, for many Israelis who are unable to escape the difficult cycle of their lives, a pardon as an institution of kindness is one of our most important social foundations. I call on IDF soldiers and national service workers who need it to contact the President’s House and submit requests for the deletion of a criminal record.”
President Herzog, who previously served as Minister of Welfare and Social Services in two governments, has set himself the policy of working to promote and encourage rehabilitation processes, with a special emphasis on the rehabilitation of young people and teenagers who have become involved in crime. Immediately after the beginning of his term, the president sought to continue as a policy the special pardon scheme for soldiers and increase, by all means, its scope, so that every soldier suitable for the pardon scheme could receive assistance in submitting the pardon application and receive a response as soon as possible.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz congratulated the president on the initiative and said: “This represents the spirit of the people’s army (as the IDF is known to Israelis). Throughout its years, the IDF has fulfilled national missions – from mobilizing to fight Corona, to the important task of rehabilitating soldiers with criminal backgrounds. I call on all soldiers and national service servants with criminal records to respond to the president’s request and submit an application.”
One of the soldiers who attended the meeting, and made the decision to apply after hearing President Herzog, is Sgt. Moshe Elmaleh, 22, who was convicted of various property offenses as a teenager. After an indictment was filed against him, the juvenile court decided to give him a chance and sent him to a rehab village. There he underwent an extraordinary rehabilitation process for about two-and-a-half years, during which he also completed a full matriculation certificate. He waged a long battle to enlist in the IDF. His commanders testified that he was an exemplary soldier, showing initiative, dedication and responsibility, caring for the company’s fighters and serving as their ‘big brother.’ The president complied with his request and deleted his criminal record to allow him to open a new page in life.
Recently, President Herzog also discussed the request of a soldier from the Engineering Corps who, in his youth, became involved in crime and was convicted of a violent offense. His commanders testified that he was a valued and esteemed soldier who underwent a significant rehabilitation process and even served in command positions in a combat corp. During his military service he received various certificates of excellence and towards the end of his military service, on Independence Day 2021, he even received a certificate of excellence from the President of the State for his service in the IDF. The president complied with the pardon request and deleted his criminal record.
Since taking office, President Herzog has expunged the criminal records of 19 soldiers.
The program was launched in its current form by the 10th president, Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin, in 2017. As part of it, 363 pardon requests have been submitted to date, of which about 300 were answered in the affirmative and some are still in various treatment processes.