Doni Fogel (left)
Doni Fogel (left)מיכאל ארנבורג

As rockets rain down in unprecedented numbers, threatening both southern and northern borders, Israel's defense stands firm, thanks in no small measure to a little known and enormously impactful web of cutting-edge technologies developed by alumni of the Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT).

For years, Religious Zionists have been – and remain – a fundamental and inseparable part of the Israeli fighting force. However, much of the public does not know that the Religious Zionists sector plays an equally important role behind the scenes. For decades, JCT graduates have etched their mark on the technology-based defense frontier. Since its inception in 1969, JCT has been a bastion of excellence in engineering instruction, training generations of pioneers and innovators who have shaped Israel’s defense. Today, their influence reverberates across an almost dizzying spectrum of defense technologies including the entire array of air-defense systems, satellite technologies, terror tunnel detection technology, and offensive weapons systems.

“Presently, a very high percentage of our graduates are employed in the Israeli Ministry of Defense’s Directorate of Defense Research & Development (DDR&D) and other key defense industry sectors,” notes Dr. David Sheinfeld, chair of the electro-optics department at JCT and himself a graduate of the department. “Our department’s graduates actively participate in the development of electro-optical systems, which are fielded by the Israel Defense Force as we speak, including surveillance and night vision systems. In recent years, our alumni developed the Iron Beam directed-energy defense system. As the only academic institution in Israel that trains electro-optics engineers, we are proud of our contribution to the Israeli economy and the success of the IDF,” emphasizes Dr. Sheinfeld.

IDF Colonel S., a distinguished graduate of JCT’s Electro-Optics Department, stands as a testament to JCT’s legacy. Col. S served as head of the extra-atmospheric missile defense systems in the DDR&D. Col. S was twice awarded the prestigious Israel Defense Prize for his leading and pivotal role in the development of Arrow 3. The Arrow 3 has the ability to intercept ballistic missiles in space, including those launched from a very long distance from Israel.

The first operational use of Arrow 3 was in November 2023, when it intercepted missiles launched by the Houthi terrorists in Yemen against Israel. Col. S. shared with JCT’s administration that he had the privilege to be a partner in Arrow 3’s creation almost from its inception, in 2008. “This interceptor is considered one of the most advanced in the world,” he noted when he received the Israel Defense Prize. He revealed that at the beginning of the project there was much skepticism in the United States and in Israel regarding the viability of the project. It was considered on the border of the physically impossible. The interceptor has now proven itself in combat.

“JCT’s Electronics and Electro-Optics alumni are involved in the development of nearly every technology and system that comprises Israel’s multi-layer, integrated missile defense system,” notes Doni Fogel, vice president of JCT. “JCT’s fingerprints are found in Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 (intercepting long-range ballistic threats), David Sling (intercepting enemy planes, drones, tactical ballistic missiles, medium- to long-range rockets and cruise missiles), in the radar systems of Iron Dome (intercepting short-range rockets and artillery shells) and even in the new Iron Beam. Iron Beam is based on a powerful laser and is capable of neutralizing short-distance threats. JCT graduates are involved in developing each of these systems. Moreover, our alumni have taken leading roles in developing cutting-edge offensive systems, such as the guided mortar munition, Iron Sting.

Fogel highlighted, “Technologies that have emerged from our research laboratories, in areas including encryption, camouflage, and many others are now operational on the battlefield. JCT’s Electronics Department has established itself as a foundational scientific core for numerous companies. Our graduates are positioned in key roles in the defense industry and are determined to find solutions. They strive to secure our nation and its citizens.” For example, Fogel cites JCT Chair of the Department of Electronics, Prof. Beni Milgrom, a JCT alumnus himself. Prof. Milgrom, who served as a Lt. Col. in DDR&D was awarded the IDF Chief of Staff’s Decoration for a technology he created at the request of an elite combat unit. “There is close cooperation between JCT’s departments of electronics and electro-optics and the security establishment. The innovations are on the edge of science fiction,” stresses Fogel. Fogel just completed several months of IDF reserve duty as one of the creators of the new “Phoenix” Armored Battalion. The Phoenix Unit was established during the Swords of Iron War by formerly discharged Armored Corps reservists who insisted on rejoining the IDF, recommissioning and operationalizing an entire battalion of old decommissioned tanks. They just returned from service on the Gaza-front.

The significance of JCT extends far beyond the battlefield to include strengthening Israel’s economic and strategic resilience,” explains Fogel. “Successive rounds of fighting and wars have significant economic consequences. An Iron Dome interceptor costs about $70,000. That’s a remarkably high price in relation to the costs of most rockets – including the hundreds of thousands Hezbollah are reported to possess. Iron Beam is expected to mitigate that huge financial disparity. Because Iron Beam uses electricity to produce a powerful, 100kW laser beam, its cost is estimated to be only $1,000 per interception. Of course, all the different integrated systems are required; they complement each other. Innovations such as the Iron Beam system, headed by three JCT graduates, offer not only enhanced security but also fiscal prudence in the face of growing and evolving threats.”

Fogel remarked that JCT’s students and alumni are lending their expertise to critical industries and ensuring the seamless continuity of essential operations, even during these trying times. A significant part of the workforce has been recruited for military reserves; that has a major impact on the Israeli economy. One such affected company, dealing with laser development, is Civan Advanced Technologies Ltd. Founded by a JCT electro-optics engineering alumnus, Dr. Eyal Shekel, who serves on JCT’s Board of Trustees, Civan Advanced Technologies Ltd. had a large portion of its employees drafted into emergency service. “Many JCT students who were not conscripted by the IDF reserves, volunteered to help Israeli companies meet their commitments to customers in Israel and around the world,” Fogel said.

Among the JCT students volunteering at Civan Advanced Technologies Ltd. is Jacob Habib, a third-year electro-optical engineering student. “As soon as our Electro-Optical Department Chair asked for volunteers, we all immediately agreed, ”explained Habib. He continued, “we wanted to ensure that production continues in full and without delays. I am very proud to be a part of this and to contribute to the State of Israel.”

Fogel adds that although years have passed since their graduation, the unwavering dedication of JCT alumni epitomizes the enduring legacy of JCT’s founder Professor Ze’ev Lev, z”l. Prof. Lev envisioned an academic institution that would meld Torah values with scientific inquiry – and produce alumni who embody the convergence of faith and innovation. “Take, for instance, Col S.,” offered Fogel. “He led the Israeli technical team to the first operational test of the Arrow 3 missile in Kodiak, Alaska. After the first test fire was successful, he rose in the dining hall – packed with Americans and Israelis – and after congratulating all the participants, he recounted that he and his chavruta (Torah study partner) had the practice of daily learning Torah – even while in Kodiak, Alaska. That day, they had completed learning a Talmud tractate (Archin). In the presence of all those Israeli and US military members present on-site at the secure facility, he marked the occasion - a globally unprecedented military achievement as well as a milestone “kiddush Hashem” for the Jewish people."

Since the Arrow 3 system is based on electro-optics, which manipulates the interplay of electricity and light, and the Torah is compared to light (Proverbs 6:23), we can proudly state that our students and alumni are engaged in the research, development and promulgation of both types of light,” concludes Fogel with a smile.