The IDF is planning to open one of its most secret and prestigious hi-tech courses to teenage Jews from the Diaspora, in an effort to enhance its technological capabilities, The Jerusalem Post has learned. The program, called Talpiot, is the longest course in the IDF. Its participants are chosen from a pool of highly-motivated youth who specialize in hard sciences such as physics and mathematics. The soldiers, who all become officers, undergo more than three years of training - during which time they receive a degree in both physics and mathematics - and then join the Defense Ministry's Research and Development Directorate or highly-classified units in the air force. Following the training, Talpiot participants are obligated to sign on for an additional six years of military service, for five of which they earn high salaries.
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OC Human Resources Maj.-Gen. Elazar Stern hopes to have the program up and running for Diaspora youth within six months.
The IDF plans to use the resources of the Jewish Agency and the Foreign Ministry to identify candidates for the course. The army plans to begin advertising the new program, based at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, in English on its Web site.
A high-ranking officer told the Post the decision to create the Diaspora program was made to enhance IDF technological capabilities.
"We are very happy with the amount and quality of the soldiers we are currently getting,"
the officer said. "But we want more."
The Diaspora Jews accepted into the program will need to acquire Israeli citizenship and to become fluent in Hebrew.
Acceptance to Talpiot - one of the IDF's most prestigious programs, alongside the IAF's pilot's course, is very difficult. The first class, established in 1979 due in part to lessons learned from the Yom Kippur War, consisted of 25 cadets. The class size was later increased to some 50. Thousands are rigorously tested in an effort to gain admission to the program.
The Talpiot program also requires a very high security clearance; prospective recruits from abroad will have to pass a stringent security check to participate.