The Israel Defense Forces’ Education Corps recently received a special NIS 4 million budget to fund leadership training provided to IDF soldiers by the right-wing organization Elad (a Hebrew acronym for “To the City of David”) in East Jerusalem.
A senior IDF commander has confirmed that the amount was transferred; however, he claimed that there was nothing amiss in the IDF’s working with this organization because the Education Corps monitors all of the content of Elad’s instruction programs for IDF units.
Elad, which promotes Jewish settlement in Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, has worked with the Education Corps for many years. Apparently, the money was transferred though a special allocation from the budget of one government ministry. The senior commander confirmed that the money was earmarked in advance for this purpose – in other words, the Education Corps received it with the stipulation that it would fund the training sessions given by Elad.
He added that the organization specializes in instruction sessions focused on the City of David, an archaeological site immediately south of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. The content of every lecture delivered to IDF soldiers, he noted, is approved in advance by the Education Corps, which also closely monitors the training sessions in the field in order to ascertain that the persons conducting them are complying with the terms of the agreement between the Education Corps and Elad.
“The IDF supervises these activities meticulously,” the senior commander emphasized.
Last month, Haaretz reported that hundreds of cadets in officer training school spent a weekend at a “leadership Sabbath” in East Jerusalem that was initiated by the
Education Corps and organized by Elad; some of the lecturers appearing before the soldiers on behalf of Elad were rabbis. The event is part of the IDF’s training program for combat officers destined to serve in field units.
Cadets who participated said the speakers tended to avoid outright political statements, but the lectures contained a clear ideological message for strengthening the Jewish presence in the eastern part of the city. They visited the Jewish neighborhood of Ma’aleh Zeitim on the Mount of Olives and, from an observation point on the roof of one of the houses there, were able to get a good view of the Temple Mount.
The father of one cadet told Haaretz that the lecturers “marketed a concentrated religious doctrine concealed under the heading of leadership.”
A reservist officer who in the past has served in senior positions in the Education Corps, says that “there are various perspectives on Jewish identity, ranging from the ultra-Orthodox to Modern Orthodox and non-Orthodox, and I am not at all certain that the army is sufficiently balancing the picture.”
The new IDF Chief Education Officer, Brig. Gen. Avner Paz-Tzuk, assumed the post yesterday, replacing Brig. Gen. Eli Shermeister who served six years in that capacity.
Shermeister, who is retiring from military service, recently said in an interview with the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper: “The IDF is not a religious army, although it does have religious soldiers.” He added in that interview that he did not feel that the Military Rabbinate was trying to take over the IDF.