A national mosaic of the heritage of the IDF

  (photo credit: IGAL SLAVIN)
(photo credit: IGAL SLAVIN)

Every soldier has a story. Since the founding of the State of Israel almost 75 years ago, nearly three million men and women have served in the IDF. Everyone – from the youngest private to the highest-ranking general – has a personal memory to be shared, a significant point of reference –  a “Nekudat Zion”–   that needs to be told, preserved and remembered as part of the IDF mosaic representing Israel’s heritage.

Nekudat Zion, an Israeli non-profit organization, is creating a national digital social montage of Israel’s heritage, documenting and connecting the stories and memories of generations of IDF service members. 

Ran Bender, Major (res.) in the Israeli Air Force, founded Nekudat Zion with the goal of conserving and democratizing the legacy of the IDF. Using an independent digital platform, Nekudat Zion facilitates connectivity and accessibility of personal narratives. “We see great significance in documenting the stories of soldiers across generations and thus preserving the heritage of the IDF,” he explains. “By providing an innovative and creative forum for social and community involvement, we enable the accessibility of this great heritage to all citizens of Israel and Jews across the Diaspora.”

The focus of the organization is to share defining moments from soldiers’ military service that accompany them throughout their adult lives. By connecting this mosaic of moments, the founders hope to provide a higher educational value to young adults across Jewish and Israeli communities. The platform combines videos, photos, audio clips, letters, memorabilia and more. Multimedia is tagged by name, date, location and military unit, creating a fully searchable social database connecting soldiers and stories across generations.  These are displayed on a map, a timeline, and across a web of participants. 

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The Nekudat Zion website has already collected testimonies from a diverse pool of IDF soldiers across ranks, locations, units, and periods and uploaded them to the site, including defining moments from Major General (res.) Eliezer Shkedi, former Commander of the Israeli Air Force and former CEO of El Al; Major General (res.) Elazar Stern, former Head of Manpower Directorate and Chief Education Officer and current member of Knesset; Brigadier General (res.) Gal Hirsch, former Commander of the Shaldag Special Unit; Lieutenant Colonel (res.) Yoaz Hendel, former Combat Officer in the elite Shayetet 13 naval commando unit and former Minister of Communication; Brigadier General (res.) Sharon Nir, former IDF Chief of Staff’s advisor on Gender Affairs, the first woman to hold the position of Commander of the Teleprocessing Corps and current member of Knesset. Individuals can record themselves or alternatively schedule a Zoom interview with a team of clinical psychologists, thereby enabling management of post-traumatic stress. Video memories and interviews are reviewed, given security clearance, indexed and securely stored for online viewing. 

Until now, memories of IDF soldiers were dispersed across many locations on and off-line, in a variety of formats, without a searchable repository for the full range of experiences. In addition, recollections and stories of aging veterans, who served during some of the most critical periods in the IDF’s history, are in danger of disappearing forever. The platform provides an organized and comprehensive framework, putting veterans’ stories in a much larger context from a personal, social, and historical perspective, ensuring that generations of youth in Israel and across the world can experience the IDF legacy. 

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Credit: Yaron OrensteinCredit: Yaron Orenstein

Nekudat Zion brings together more than fifty volunteers from diverse backgrounds – academia, education, defense, business, technology, and social welfare. Their advisory board includes familiar names, including Mr. Oved Yechezkel, former government secretary to the Prime Minister; General (res.) Meir Klifi, former CEO of the FIDF; Brigadier General (res.) Eli Shermeister, former IDF Chief Education Officer; Brigadier General (res.) Hasson Hasson, former Military Secretary to the President of Israel; Colonel Ortal K., former Head of Intelligence of the Israel Navy; and Colonel Ofer B., former Squadron Commander in the Israeli Air Force.

Nekudat Zion works in cooperation with the IDF’s Education Corps, Spokesperson’s Office, Military Academy, History Department, Main Reserve Headquarters, Commemoration and Heritage Division of the Ministry of Defense, Disabled Veteran’s Organization, Aharai Youth Leadership, and DTec, the first Druze veterans hi-tech empowerment center.  In addition, the platform has partnered with various organizations such as WIX, Kaltura, Tzofim Tzabar and dozens of high schools across Israel.

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Nekudat Zion will officially launch in 2023, targeting three significant educational projects. 

The first is entitled “Moreshet,” Heritage Education, and is intended to connect Israeli youth prior to recruitment into the IDF, promoting meaningful military service via interviews conducted by high schoolers of family and members of the community who served in the IDF. This phase has already launched across Israel with the aim of reaching over 200,000 high school students by 2025.

The second, entitled “Vatikim,” Veterans / Senior Citizens, is launching in March, focusing on the upcoming 50th anniversary of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Nekudat Zion has set a goal of obtaining at least 10,000 interviews with those who served in the conflict by the October anniversary. Time is of the essence in collecting stories among these veterans, as there are some 300,000 Yom Kippur veterans who are currently in their 70s and 80s.

The third, “Project Diaspora,” will connect Jewish youth across the world with Israelis in their communities who served in the IDF, as well as Israelis back home closer to their age whose values they share. These connections aim to provide them with a better understanding of the challenges facing Israeli soldiers. This outreach program is launching in January of 2023 with the goal of collecting 1,000 interviews by the end of the year through the recruitment of some 200 American youth. 

“There is great importance in connecting Jewish youth with Israelis living among them who have served in the IDF,” says Bender. “I believe that building a communication channel will increase solidarity with the values taught by the IDF and improve their understanding of the importance of the tools soldiers receive as part of their military service that affect them for the rest of their lives.”

For more information about partnership opportunities with the organization, and to learn about bringing Nekudat Zion to communities around you: Nekudat Zion website

This article was written in cooperation with Nekudat Zion