The IDF’s “Culture Sundays” event is returning for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the military announced on Sunday.
The project, which was begun in 1987, brings Israeli soldiers from around the country together to enjoy cultural activities, such as theater shows, concerts, films and dance performances, with the aim of expanding their knowledge and appreciation of fine arts.
Culture Sundays was suspended in March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began spreading across the globe, marking a 20-month hiatus for the program.
Thousands of soldiers are expected to visit theaters across the country and enjoy performances. Priority is set by the IDF Personnel Division and the Education and Youth Corps, though the ultimate goal is to bring performances to all serving soldiers.
"During the corona period, we had to stop the cultural days, and now we are happy to return, happy that thousands of soldiers will return to enjoy various cultural events every week," said Maj.-Gen. Yaniv Asur.
The COVID-related pause was not the only obstacle for the long-standing cultural program – which is funded only by donations – has had to combat. The project, which hosted over 45,000 soldiers in 2003, was scaled back due to budget constraints and there were only 8,700 participants in 2005, according to Ynet. Culture Sundays was saved, however, when national lottery “Mifal Hapais” donated NIS 800,000 to keep the project running.
Funding remained an issue for the program, culminating in a 2014 announcement that in order to cut costs, bringing soldiers to theaters to enjoy plays, concerts and other performances would cease and that artists would be invited to military bases to perform on-site instead. The project was finally brought back in full two years later, according to N12.
In 2017, four IDF soldiers were killed in a car attack when a terrorist struck several soldiers. The soldiers were on a guided tour of Jerusalem that was organized by Culture Sundays.
The program, now finally returning after several pauses and financial struggles, hopes to bring back some of the cultural value it had offered previously.
"The power of the IDF is not based solely on sophisticated weapons or advanced technology," explained Asur, "but on its human capital, people and spirit."