The landmark Hebrew University water tower.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem won a tender to run an academic excellence program for the Israel Defense Forces’ Intelligence Corps beginning in October, the Defense Ministry an-nounced on Sunday.
The program, known as Havatzalot (“Lilies”), offers a three-year BA degree for intelligence of-ficer cadets as part of their mandatory army service and includes basic combat training, officer training, and training in military intelligence and leadership.
Troops who join the program graduate with the rank of lieutenant and must join Military Intel-ligence units for at least six years.
Thousands of candidates take part in the program’s selection process but less than 50 cadets, both male and female, are accepted into the program each year. To be accepted into the elite program, candidates must pass cognitive exams and exhibit high motivation, and interpersonal and leadership abilities.
The Havatzalot program has been hosted by Haifa University since its establishment in 2005. Students pursue a double major, electing a first concentration in either Islamic or Middle East-ern studies, and a second in mathematics, economics, philosophy or computer science.
“The tender is one of the most complex and important academic tenders that the Ministry of Defense has conducted in recent years,” said the deputy head of procurement in the Defense Ministry, Bracha Hertz. “All along the way we made sure to maintain the important balance between the program of military excellence and complete academic freedom.”
According to Haaretz, the tender stipulates that students wear their IDF uniform and carry their personal firearm on campus. The university will also have to provide the military with the personal information about university staff, including admission and maintenance personnel, security guards and sub-contractors.
The Haaretz report also stated that cadets in the program will have to sign a release allowing university lecturers to keep the IDF in the know about the students’ grades and attendance.
But the Academy for Equality has raised concerns over the program, calling on the university to “drop a plan that endangers academic life, harms the relationship between lecturers and stu-dents, compromises their privacy and, last but not least, sabotages the delicate social fabric on campus.
“From experience at Haifa University, we know of cases in which a high-ranking officer manag-ing this program regularly attended classes, informally monitoring and thus severely affecting the content being discussed there,” the group wrote in an open letter to the university.
The coordinator of student activism with the Arab-Jewish Hadash Party, Tareq Yassin, was quoted by the al-Monitor news site as saying that the program would promote a feeling of mil-itarism at the university and make Arab students feel uncomfortable.
“You’re not an academic institution but at a security organization,” he said, adding that the presence of soldiers would lead to Arab students feeling uncomfortable to freely express themselves.
Hebrew University President Prof. Asher Cohen said he is “proud” of the tender’s results, “which serve further evidence of the high academic standard at the Hebrew University, which from now on will be a partner in the academic and leadership training of Intelligence Corps sol-diers in the challenging Havatzalot program.”
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