Bennett Plan to increase IDF enlistment motivation revealed

Program includes officer visits to schools for recruitment preparation & strengthening connection between combat military bases and schools.

Mordechai Sones,

Nahal haredi soldiers
Nahal haredi soldiers
Flash 90

Education Minister Naftali Bennett recently ordered initiating a national program to encourage student army enlistment that will be integrated into the system this year.

The program, unveiled today for the first time, was formulated by a professional team headed by the Ministry's Director-General Shmuel Abuhav, in cooperation with the Defense Ministry and the IDF.

"Today we embark on a comprehensive program to increase recruitment motivation for meaningful IDF service," noted Bennett. "Along with excellence in math, English, and other professional fields, we in the Education Ministry are also working to instill Zionist values.

"I therefore instructed the education system to join forces with the IDF and the Defense Ministry to increase motivation to serve in IDF combat units. In the State of Israel's 70th year, serving in the IDF is not only an ordinary civilian duty, but a great privilege and a primary national mission," added the Education Minister.

The program has several main courses designed to strengthen the connection between schools and the IDF, to strengthen the students' identity and their connection to the IDF, and to double the number of students taking part in pre-recruitment preparatory frameworks from about 5,150 to about 10,000. For this purpose, the Ministry allocated a total sum of approximately NIS 80 million.

Program Highlights:

  • Strengthening the connection between combat military bases and schools - the bases will adopt schools to encourage students to significantly increase enlistment;
  • The Gaza Division, Paratroopers Corps, Combat Engineers, Artillery, Reserve Unit 188, Navy, and Border Police will adopt schools in order to strengthen the students' desire to perform meaningful service. The bases will host schools and expose students to the army and military activity on the base. At the same time, schools will host officers and soldiers and talk to them about military history and doctrine. On Memorial Day for Israel's Fallen Soldiers joint ceremonies will be held;
  • Combat unit commanders will meet with schoolchildren and tell of their personal service in combat to provide them with inspiration. In addition, senior commanders will hold meetings with the educational staff in teachers' rooms to stimulate an ethical/educational discourse on the importance of military service, with emphasis on combat service.

In order to prepare students for the IDF framework, the Ministry will expand the Gadna framework from 20,000 to about 30,000 11th grade trainees. Gadna is a one-week military program of discipline and training that prepares young people for IDF service, usually under commanders serving with the Nahal infantry brigade. The trial week experience has great significance in the students' familiarity with the military framework and greatly contributes to the rapid transition from the civilian school lifestyle to the framework of military life.

Over the past few years, the demand for schools to take part in the Gadna framework has increased. As part of the Minister's plan, the Ministry will expand the number of schools that will take part in Gadna. In order to provide service to all schools, Gadna activity will be expanded in addition to Sde Boker and Tzalmon to other IDF training bases.

As part of the program, 180 local authorities will strengthen and expand existing programs within and outside school. At the same time, during the school day, instruction totalling at least eight hours will be allocated for recruitment calls. In addition, various afterschool frameworks will operate, such as:

  • "The New Way" for integrating Ethiopian immigrants in military service: The program works to increase the number of recruits joining ranks of officers and other tasks. At the same time the program will work to strengthen abilities and self-confidence of youth in order to prevent dropping out;
  • "Initiative 101", a joint venture with the Acharai organization: The youth leadership program encourages social involvement among young people standing at the final crossroads at which their future might be influenced by education;
  • Tzahala program focuses on at-risk youth and works to prepare them for normative social integration and eventually bring them into meaningful military or civilian service;
  • "Ofek Program" - Modeled after six-month pre-military preparatory program for youth from weaker geographic and social strata, helping participants cultivate leadership skills;
  • Maagalim - a value-based educational program that operates within the state religious school framework, oriented towards the aim of performing meaningful IDF service.
  • Yedidim - a youth leadership and IDF service preparation program operating in state religious institutions to provide tools for optimal integration of boys into the IDF and Israeli society.

The "preparatory center" for youth will be a central and significant factor within local councils. The Center will coordinate, concentrate, and monitor through the Youth Department director all municipal activities having to do with recruitment and preparation for military/national-civil service. Because of the center's importance, they will be expanded from 36 to 72, and in a gradual five-year process they will be extended to 180 centers.

Within the centers:

  • Young students will be taught values, Zionism, and encouragement to social and military activity;
  • Recruitment rates among young people eligible for IDF enlistment will be increased;
  • An increase in the number of officers and combat soldiers will be encouraged;
  • The dropout rate of soldiers during regular service among a given city residents will be decreased;
  • There will be parents evenings for grade 11 and 12 youth who are preparing for military service;
  • Information, guidance, and advice to parents and youth will be provided;
  • There will be conferences for 12th grade conscripts.