West Bank Trip for Israel's Pre-army Cadets Sparks Protest

Program graduates say they oppose political orientation of planned visit to Hebron; Israeli army: Aim is to 'encourage dialogue.'

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Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

Participants in the pre-army program run by the Reali School in Haifa, whose purpose is to train the future generation of army commanders, will be going on a field trip to Hebron this weekend “to get to know the 'other,'” as they have been told. The two-day trip, during which the cadets will visit Hebron and spend the Sabbath in the settlement of Efrat, has sparked a debate among some of the program’s graduates, who claim that it shows that inappropriate political influence is being exerted on the cadets.

For example, former attorney general Michael Ben-Yair posted a comment about the issue on his Facebook page, where he says the trip constitutes “a very serious scandal.”

“This is political indoctrination ... in an occupied area that is extremely controversial in Israeli society and in the community of nations,” he wrote. “In addition, it is political indoctrination of cadets who will one day be the backbone of career army. The Israel Defense Forces is the people’s army, not the settlers’ army. By such indoctrination, the IDF, which is responsible for the education of those in the pre-army program, is doing something that should not be done.”

An IDF official said that as part of the educational philosophy of the army and of the Reali program as well, the trip to Hebron will include a visit to the Tomb of the Patriarchs and a tour of the Judea Territorial Brigade.

“The participants will also spend the Sabbath with teenagers from the settlement of Efrat. The program will include discussions about the importance of contributing to the state and about army service for all young people, without any connection to their political or social opinions. The purpose of the weekend is to encourage dialogue in Israeli society and to reduce existing gaps and stigmas,” the official said.

The IDF Spokesman’s Office gave this response: “The pre-army academies take great care to expose their students to a variety of sectors in Israeli society. This educational activity is one of many that are undertaken to expand the cadets’ horizons.”

Haifa's Reali School.Credit: Itzik Ben Malki

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