Now that the Education Ministry has finished adorning all of Israel's schools with the national flag, it has begun a new initiative, in cooperation with the Israel Defense Forces: In the coming weeks, lieutenant colonels will be assigned to dozens of high schools throughout the country to "accompany the students from 10th grade to draft."
It is still not completely clear exactly what this new service will include. Is it the Jewish version of planting Shin Bet agents in Arab schools? What, exactly, will the officer do with his students? Will he inculcate the values of occupation? And how will the chain of command function - will the principal answer to the officer, or the other way around? And where else in the world are army officers present in schools?
Yet the 150 educators and intellectuals who signed a petition against the project are mistaken. There is, of course, a marginal benefit in the fact that every day these officers are in the teachers' lounge is a day they are not in the Casbah of Nablus. Beyond that, however, it is better for the truth to come to light than to remain in a state of ambiguity, pretense and repression. It is better to have a uniformed officer in the school than a reserve officer as principal, which happens quite often. In an education system that inculcates the draft as narrative, which sees preparation for army service as an educational goal, as was noted in a recent director general's circular, an officer on the faculty is no more than an extension of the existing policy.
Moreover, it may be better to expose young people to the IDF at a young age, to prepare them properly for service in the army of occupation. Through the officers who will be sent to the schools - although it is to be assumed that these will not be the best of the lot, since those are busy fighting terror and occupying - young people will be exposed to the character of their future commanders. High school students will be able to hear from them about some of the IDF's activities - the destruction of houses, the killing of wanted men, the delaying of women in labor and the prevention of medical treatment, landscape clearing, closures and curfews.
When Education Ministry director-general Ronit Tirosh sees the officers of the IDF - an army that is more than a little tainted with problematic morality - as "people who control the heritage of values" and "experts in the area of values," the extent to which the education system is tainted with problematic morality becomes clear. A pedagogic system that invites senior officers to inculcate "values" to students is a system in trouble. An IDF officer should not be the one sent into the schools. Rather, intellectuals, who will teach young people human values to serve as a counterweight to the educational, moral and psychological damage caused by service in the territories, should be.
"The army should stay on its bases," asserted one opponent of the project, Prof. Devora Bernstein. However, the IDF was never satisfied with its bases. Its senior retirees are present in almost all walks of life. From the chairman of the Second Authority to the chairman of the Pharmacists' Association to the director of the Israel Center for Management, the president of the Israel Industrialists' Association, the director of the Contractors' Association and on and on, including, of course, the heads of government and even most of the candidates for prime minister from the major leftist party - key positions in Israeli society are all held by retired colonels, who bring with them military traditions with all their limitations and blindness. "The whole people is the army" is true now more than ever. And now the IDF will be going into the schools as well.
From the point of view of the IDF, this is a desperate move. It understands that, apparently, the social makeup of the soldiers, especially the field units, is changing. In spite of the frequent festive declarations of the commander-in-chief on his visits to the induction center regarding increased motivation, it is an open secret that the population of North Tel Aviv, for example, is staying away from combat units, and its place is being taken by Orthodox soldiers and those from weaker segments of the population.
The new project is intended as an antidote to decreasing motivation and rising gray-area refusal to serve among stronger segments of the population. Perhaps this early contact with the IDF will encourage young people to ask the difficult question all young people should be asking themselves and each other: What are you doing to us? Why are we being killed? Why are we killing?
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