Officers Hit Schools Today in Campaign for Enlistment in IDF Combat Units

Starting today and over the next three weeks, 350 IDF officers will visit some 270 high schools as part of an initiative to encourage youth to join combat units for their military service. The project, known as the "Path of Values," will bring approximately 8,000 teachers and senior IDF officers (at the ranks of colonel and lt. colonel) together in the hope that they will have an effect on the pupils and their motivation for conscription.

Educators have been critical of the project in the past, arguing that it distorts the boundary between education and the military.

The project was initiated by the IDF and the Defense Ministry and "is meant to strengthen the link and the cooperation between schools and the army," according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Education.

During the school visits, the officers and teachers will discuss the relationship between army and society, the learning of values, and methods for "bolstering the willingness of youth to perform substantive service in the IDF."

"Service in the IDF is not just an obligation but a privilege and a social value," says Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar. "The link between the educational system and the IDF will become closer as part of the project I have initiated."

He added that beyond the aim of raising pupils' motivation to join the army, the project also seeks to narrow the existing gaps between schools and the army and for "IDF commanders to better understand the challenges faced by principals and teachers at schools."

The visits by officers to schools are part of a broader series of initiatives, such as those offering monetary bonuses to those schools that increase the rate of graduates who are conscripted or do public service.

A month ago Sa'ar and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi held a joint conference in Jerusalem with school principals on the subject of encouraging conscription into the IDF.

Upon its announcement two months ago, the project immediately drew criticism from educators who maintain there must be absolute separation between education and military service.

"Service in the army is mandatory, not a value in and of itself," says Professor Nimrod Aloni, who heads the Institute for Educational Thought at the Seminar HaKibbutzim. "There is no need to 'mortgage' the children from a young age for the army, because this leads to the risk of us becoming Sparta and not Athens."