IDF to Drastically Reduce Educational Presentations, Activities by External Groups

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkott. (IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)

The IDF will significantly reduce the number of external educational and social service groups that will be allowed to lecture or carry out activities with soldiers, the army announced Monday. In accordance with instructions issued by IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkott, the IDF’s Education Division will set clear frameworks for what will be allowed to be presented by soldiers, and by which groups.

Currently, there are 97 such organizations that engage in activities with soldiers, and Eisenkott is determined to reduce that number significantly. While a final list has not yet been published, officials told Ha’aretz that they expected that no more than 15 organizations will be on the list of authorized organizations. In addition, the areas that the organizations will be allowed to touch upon with soldiers will be radically narrowed. Religion and politics are out, and the only educational materials soldiers will be exposed to will be education about the Holocaust, the IDF’s “tradition of service,” and “life choices,” which will consist mostly of education to limit soldiers’ use of alcohol and drugs, to encourage safe driving, discourage irresponsible use of weapons.

For higher-ranked officers, activities will be allowed that will encompass some of the more divisive aspects of Israeli society, on the theory that officers who have signed up for further service are in the army by choice – as opposed to inductees, who have no choice but to serve. “It is not our place to lecture Israeli society or promote ideologies or lifestyles,” an IDF official told Ha’aretz, “Soldiers are in the IDF because they are required to be there, and it is our responsibility to maintain an army that everyone can feel comfortable in. We will not deal with issues regarding identity that soldiers brought with them from their homes, and that includes the question of religious observance in Israeli society.”

Eisenkott, who has faced criticism from right and left, and from religious and secular groups over his educational policies, intends to offload the task of education from the IDF, and send it back to the home and community where it belongs, the official said, adding that “our efforts will be to highlight the role of the IDF as the army of a Jewish and democratic state.”