July 1, 2010
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is working to widen their cadets' perspective by having them familiarize themselves with the epicenter of Israel's secular experience: Tel Aviv. Participants in the IDF cadets course will spend a Saturday in Tel Aviv, where they will tour areas in the southern part of the city inhabited primarily by migrant workers and low-income families, along with parts of Jaffa.
Over the past decade, every graduating class of officers has conspicuously included a large number of religious cadets. This particular class was no different: 29 percent of the graduates wear skullcaps. Among the infantry officers, that number jumps to one-third.
The decision to add Tel Aviv to the curriculum grew out of the understanding that many would-be officers are not very familiar with secular culture. The cadets who spent Saturday in the city were taken to the Bina Center for Jewish Identity and Hebrew Culture, also known as the "secular yeshiva," in south Tel Aviv, where former minister Yair Tzaban - who in recent years has championed the cause of "Judaism as a culture" - delivered a lecture.
To strengthen their understanding of Judaism and Zionism, Israel Defense Forces cadets have traditionally been given on-site educational seminars about the country's most symbolic sites - particularly in Jerusalem. Now the officers course command feels that spending a Saturday in Tel Aviv will help the religious officers gain a better perspective about a group of people they will likely encounter in their future roles as division commanders.