Israeli soldiers wear their combat gear near a shelter at Kerem Shalom crossing August 1, 2014..
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN - REUTERS)
The majority of parents support the encouragement of recruitment to the IDF as well as the coordination of school activities on the issue, Paz Cohen, head of the National Parents Association, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
He was addressing a new plan announced by Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday to increase motivation for enlistment in combat units by students.
As part of the plan, IDF combat bases will “adopt” schools, combat officers will visit and lecture in schools, and students will take tours of IDF bases – all in an effort to motivate “significant service.”
The term “significant service” is generally used to refer to soldiers in combat roles.
Bennett has allocated an additional NIS 33 million to the project, bringing the total cost to NIS 80m., up from NIS 47m. in 2014.
Cohen said he could not speak for all parents in the education system and said there were undoubtedly those who would oppose the plan, but he said he believes his views reflect those of the vast majority of parents.
“We are for meaningful service in the IDF, regardless of political views, and so if there are programs to encourage youth to IDF enlistment we support those programs,” he said. “This is part of our obligation to society and it is our role to encourage enlistment.”
Cohen said Bennett was not the first education minister to promote army service and said it was important to emphasize that, “This should not become an issue of Right or Left. The IDF should not receive any political color and should remain the army of the people.”
He added: “I do want to speak about values and promote values in the education system and service in the IDF is one of these values. I wish we didn’t need the army and our children could live like children in other countries but that is not our reality. It is our role to encourage enlistment.”
Dr. Gabi Osem, head of the education department of the Kibbutz Movement, also expressed support of the plan.
“I suggest that any educators who are opposed to the plan understand that whoever does not educate toward giving, enlistment and service to the country and does not initiate or allow these meetings [of IDF soldiers with students], does not understand the Israeli reality and the challenges facing it,” she said.
For the most part, responses to the plan by parents organizations and educators were supportive, however, there were also those who opposed the plan.
In a heated debate on a morning talk show with Niv Raskin on Channel 2, the principal of the Ironi Daled high school in Tel Aviv, Natan Stern, expressed disapproval of the program to MK Oren Hazan.
Stern said there are already soldiers who come into schools to talk to youth about IDF service, but said the new plan was “militarism of the education system.”
“We need to distinguish between education and militarism, which is in essence indoctrinated, and between ‘Let’s expose them to different units,’” he said.
Stern also criticized the phrase “significant service” and said that a youth with above-average cognitive abilities serving in a cyber unit or the elite 8200 intelligence unit is just as significant as a soldier serving in a combat unit.
In response to Stern’s comments, Hazan said: “I am simply amazed. I am looking at him and I say: ‘Maybe we are not living in the State of Israel. Maybe we are not living in a state in which the reality is that the army is an integral part of us.’” He added: “The nonsense that is coming out of his mouth is simply destroying us from within. Because of principals like these, we are seeing low enlistment rates.”
Hazan went even further to accuse Stern of “delegitimizing” the IDF, saying that anyone who does not allow the army to come into schools and meet with students is delegitimizing the defense forces.
Stern responded: “When elected officials can lash out at anyone who thinks differently from them, this is a reason for decreased motivation.”
He emphasized that the role of the education system is to broaden the students’ horizon and not to impose beliefs on them.
“My job is to cause these youths who will hold a gun in half a year to think independently and critically. My job is to expose them to diversity and not tell them this is right and this is legitimate,” he said.
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