Drafting Them in Kindergarten

Schools were not designed to prepare future soldiers, certainly not to encourage them to enlist without asking questions about the 1967 war and about the Israeli military solution to the Iranian problem.

Or Kashti
Or Kashti
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Or Kashti
Or Kashti

It begins in kindergarten, when one day the parents are asked to prepare a package of goodies and to help to draw greetings for the soldiers of the Duvdevan elite undercover unit who have adopted the kindergarten.

Miraculously, even if it was done without awareness, the request/order came during the weeks of Passover and Holocaust Remembrance Day, of Memorial Day and Independence Day, a period full of days of majesty, which for the children ended up in a mixture of Pharoah, Hitler, fireworks and "the people who died for the country because of the Arabs who wanted to expel the Jews," as my four-year-old daughter once told me.

The militarism in Israeli society is reflected not only among the gang of Sayeret Matkal elite commando graduates that dominates the country, but also on the everyday level, ostensibly banal and unthreatening, like the adoption of kindergartens by army units, or a brief holiday visit to Israel Defense Forces bases. And if there's nothing wrong with such an early start to preparing the children for their next role, the one that will begin at the age of 18, clearly the school system has to mobilize for the purpose.

Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar set the tone already in his first day on the job: The rates of student enlistment in the IDF and combat units became one of the indices for judging schools; the decision to expand the Derekh Erekh (Path of Values ) project, in which hundreds of lieutenant colonels and colonels are sent to talk to principals and teachers about how to increase motivation to serve in the army; and there is even a new position in the department of society and youth in the Education Ministry: "coordinator of preparation for the IDF."

At a Derekh Erekh conference two days ago, Sa'ar and Chief of Staff Benny Gantz were thrilled at the joint activity. Really, what more could you ask when the pamphlet prepared for the event includes, as Talila Nesher reported in Haaretz, selected quotations from teachers who participated in the program, according to which "The army for me is a question of national survival, it's the essence of the Jewish people," and "The army is the soul of the Jewish people, it's a part of my soul."

The mobilization of the school system for the IDF's benefit is nothing new, of course, but it seems that Sa'ar, far more than his predecessors, is trying to turn it into one of his educational pillars, and the schools are now being required to internalize it and act accordingly.

"Service in the IDF is not only an obligation but a privilege and a social value. The connection between the school system and the IDF will become stronger in the context of the program that I initiated," declared Sa'ar a few years ago when he first expanded Derekh Erekh. With this merging of educational and military objectives, the education minister is conscripting the pupils, young as they are, for the benefit of the army. Sparta is there, just around the corner, reach out your hand and touch it.

The schools were not designed to prepare future soldiers, certainly not to encourage them to enlist without asking questions or expressing doubts - not only about the draft of the ultra-Orthodox, the most popular issue at present for secular politicians, but also about the 1967 war and about the Israeli military solution as the only solution to the Iranian problem.

Because that is precisely the essence of militarism: Unquestioning acceptance, as an axiom, of the centrality of the army and of war, whose renewed appearance every few years is taken as a matter of course. Such questions are hard to raise in the warm relationship that has been created in the annual meetings between the Education Ministry and the army.

A genuine educational act acknowledges questions and doubts and does not ignore them. What's more, the educational confrontation with dilemmas is far more important and interesting than their solution. Without such confrontation, education is nothing more than a tool for perpetuating the existing political and security situation.

The convention was held, apparently not by chance, in the secular public high school in Pisgat Ze'ev in Jerusalem. As the ability of the education minister to influence all the students in Israel becomes more limited - the ultra-Orthodox, the national religious and the Arabs (whom he isn't really interested in ) constitute about 60 percent of the students - what remains is the teachers and students in the Jewish secular public school sector, the main arena for implementing the political agenda.

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