Scout members
Scout members practicing knot-tying skills. The movement is in budget talks with the education and defense ministries. Photo by Tamar Matspy
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The Israeli scout movement is looking to set up a pre-military college for its graduates who are approaching their draft to the Israel Defense Forces. In recent weeks, the movement's leaders have met several times with representatives of the education and defense ministries, which support such institutions, as well as with several military officers.

If the plan moves forward, the pilot group (comprised of 20 to 25 students ) will begin studying as early as this September. The movement has already started advertising the program and inviting candidates to send in their resumes.

Pre-military colleges allow teenagers to defer their enlistment to the IDF by a year, during which time they can attend classes and workshops, and participate in activities aimed at strengthening their motivation for meaningful military service, including volunteering for combat units and officer courses. As of today, there are more than 35 such colleges operating throughout the country, most of them faith-based.

Some 500 graduates of the scouts movement already carry out a year of voluntary community service before they are drafted to the army, but the movement said the new program will focus on preparedness for military service. This would include strengthening certain values and introducing the students to more military-focused activitie, like field training, navigation, meeting combat soldiers and commanders, and more. The college will most likely be set up in the Haifa area, in a bid to develop cooperation with the navy.

"We plan to address the weaker sectors, like immigrants and residents of the periphery", said the secretary-general of the movement, Rotem Yoeli. He wrote recently on the group's website that most existing colleges recruit students from the more privileged sectors of society, while scout graduates who don't get to attend a pre-military college stand lesser chances of advancement both within and beyond the army.

"This is where the scout movement comes into the picture, offering all young members an equal opportunity to prepare for military service," Yoeli wrote.

"The college will allow us to have an intensive year to promote our values, like social involvement, Jewish and Israeli identity, love of the land and more," he told Haaretz.

Once enough candidates have sent in resumes, Yoeli said, the movement will conduct an intense selection process, at the end of which the movement will file draft-deferral requests on behalf of the chosen candidates. He said criteria for acceptance will include the scouts' activism in their local chapters and their participation in courses offered by the movement.

Yoeli added that considerable support for the initiative had been expressed in the meetings with Defense Ministry representatives, but that the college still needs to be licensed by the Education Ministry and endorsed by the national leadership of the scout movement.