Two hours south of Tel Aviv, in the middle of the Negev, sits Ir Habahadim (Training Base City), also known as Camp Ariel Sharon, the center of an extensive relocation of bases from the center of the country.
Ir Habahadim, which sits on an area of 1,065 dunams (266 acres), houses more than 10,000 soldiers in the IDF’s School of Technology and Maintenance, C4I (the army’s Command, Control, Computers, Communications and Information Branch), Logistics Training School, Military Police, Military Medicine, School of Education and Youth, and School of Human Resources.
The base, which opened only a year and a half ago, has state-of-theart simulators, including a medical training facility and another building housing driving simulators.
“This campus brings the most advanced abilities to our students, allowing us to train better soldiers in a shorter time, and by that improving our operational efficiency,” Maj. Kobi Asulin told journalists on a tour of the base.
According to base commander Col. Avi Motola, “There are more than 1,000 different courses” on the base, including for doctors, mechanics, drivers and many more.
“These are the most modern classes ever in Israel, maybe the world, which brings the most advanced capabilities in the world to teach students in a shorter amount of time.” Israel’s army has recently reduced the mandatory service time from 36 months to 32, and therefore, Motola said, “we cannot allow ourselves to have a shorter service and long training.”
And according to Corp. Itai Mizrachi, a soldier at Ir Habahdim, it is a marked improvement from the older bases, like Tzrifin in central Israel. In those bases, Mizrachi told The Jerusalem Post,
the army “relied on the older generation to teach new soldiers. Now we are using advanced simulators. It may look like a game, but it isn’t. It teaches soldiers to think in different scenarios.”
Camp Sharon has six dining halls, two synagogues, a sports center, a convention center that can house 800 people, libraries, and a movie theater.
The army’s move to the Negev, called “Project IDF Ascent to the Negev,” is the military’s largest and most ambitious infrastructure project ever and is sparking an economic boom to the area.
According to a former economic adviser to the chief of staff, moving the army’s bases will yield $6 billion per year and will also mean an upgrade of the area’s infrastructure, with an expected relocation of hundreds of families of career soldiers to the South.
The project, Motola said, “encourages the army’s personnel, like me, career soldiers and NCOs to relocate their families to the Negev, and that is really a great contribution to the country.”
The town of Yeroham, a 10-minute drive from the base, has already benefited from the plan. Established in 1951 by Romanian, North African and Indian immigrants, “Yeroham has been going through significant changes, partly because of the IDF’s move to the Negev,” municipality spokesman Yaniv Afuta told journalists.
“The army’s move is a big promise for Yeroham,” Afuta said, adding that a shortage of housing units has driven up apartment prices in the town of 10,300 residents and the municipality has begun building 3,000 new units in a new neighborhood named Tzahala and a new hotel with 47 suites.
“It’s a very serious move by the government to move the IDF to the Negev,” Afuta said. “It’s not only one base – it’s a very big investment in infrastructure, it’s everything around the base, it’s a very serious statement by the Israeli government.”
And while the majority of soldiers at Ir Habahadim are not career soldiers, but enlisted soldiers who return home on the weekends, Yeroham isn’t the only community in the area vying for the 300 career soldiers who will move to the South as part of the project.
In order to attract them and their families, Afuta said, Yeroham “is becoming more hi-tech oriented,” investing in new hi-tech companies, buildings, education, R&D, and more factories.
Ir Habahadim is important for Yeroham, Afuta said, and there is close cooperation with the base as it helps to develop the small town in the middle of the desert.
For Afuta, who was born and raised in Yeroham, there is something special about the town, he told journalists.
There’s something about the desert – the peace and quiet that you can find here that you can’t find anywhere else.