Israeli Army to Avoid Lectures on Controversial Topics During Soldiers' Training

New guidelines will limit the number of outside groups who can speak to soldiers doing compulsory service, and emphasis will be on activity ‘that unifies rather than divides’

Israeli army soldiers walk alongside two religious men in Jerusalem's Old City, December 21, 2017.
\ Gil Cohen-Magen

The Israeli army will substantially reduce the involvement of civilian groups in educational activities for soldiers, particularly among soldiers doing their compulsory military service and those of lower ranks.

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The move comes as part of an overhaul announced this week by the Israel Defense Forces Education Corps that will substantially limit the number of civilian organizations allowed to deliver lectures to soldiers. It is also designed to put a halt to what the Education Corps described as a trend toward the privatization of its educational activities. Lectures to soldiers doing compulsory service will not include controversial political or social topics, and the emphasis will be on activity “that unifies rather than divides.”

A survey conducted by the Education Corps revealed that 97 civilian groups have delivered lectures to soldiers, with limited army oversight and without tailoring the programming to the rank of the soldiers in the audience. Under the new policies, only 15 organizations will be permitted to speak to soldiers holding ranks from private to first lieutenant during their compulsory service. The subject matter of the talks will be limited to three main topics: Holocaust remembrance, military heritage and “Choosing Life,” which relates to alcohol and drug abuse, highway safety and playing with weapons.

The plan allows higher-ranking officers to be exposed to more controversial subjects; 78 outside organizations will be able to organize lectures for them.

“We will not preach morality to Israeli society in the educational activities for soldiers doing compulsory service,” a senior officer told Haaretz. “We will not deal with questions relating to private identity that they have taken with them from home and will not expand on the questions of the religious streams in Israeli society.”

The educational corps guidelines call for care to be taken not to allow

The Educational Corps guidelines call to take care that political content does not get injected into lectures. There are now rules regarding rabbis’ lectures to religious soldiers at army base synagogues. Only military rabbis and civilian-sector rabbis who have been approved by the chief military rabbi, Brig. Gen. Eyal Krim, will be allowed to address the soldiers.