The 25th cycle of Israeli Army majors studying at the Shalom Hartman Institute as part of the Lev Aharon program is slated to arrive at the Institute on February 25, 2008 to participate in the “Yeud v’Yichud” (Destiny and Distinction) program.
The program for majors is the largest of the Institute’s army programs. As part of the procedure of receiving promotion to major, officers must participate in a two-week enrichment program that explores questions of Jewish and Israeli identity. An integral part of this program is the three days they spend at the Hartman Institute with our scholars.
The incoming group, like the 24 before it, will participate in tours, lectures and seminars. The seminars will explore the interplay of Jewish identity, Israeli identity and religious pluralism, and will focus particularly on morality, responsibility and personal definitions of identity. These areas of study fit well with the name “Yeud v’Yichud” that originated in the document in which David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, set out his vision for the IDF.
Soldiers from all walks of Israeli life – religious, secular, Druze, Bedouin, new immigrants, women, men, Ashkenazim, Sephardim – express their opinions and ideas in these sessions. The atmosphere of these seminars can be summed up by the comment of one of the participants: “Thank you for not feeding me with opinions and versions of truth; thank you for raising the questions.”
Israeli army officers at Shalom Hartman Institute
The rationale behind these enrichment programs lies in the lasting influence the IDF has on hundreds of thousands of citizens passing through its ranks. Senior officers, who wield great influence over their soldiers, need to be equipped to face the educational challenges posed by army service.
Feedback from these officers about their experience in the Hartman program has been positive. In fact, the commanders often bring their soldiers to the program following their own experience.
In addition to the majors’ program, lieutenant colonels and full colonels also participate in seminars on Jewish and Israeli identity at Shalom Hartman Institute before receiving their rank. These high-ranking officers, who are in leadership positions with much responsibility, are challenged and enriched by these seminars.
Lieutenant Colonel Yossi Pomerantz, IDF coordinator of Lev Aharon, says the program provides senior officers with access to pluralism as a model and tool to help them function effectively as responsible citizens and as leaders in the armed forces.
“They leave Hartman with a new appreciation for their leadership role and reinforced passion for serving Israel,” he says.
Note: The Israeli Army officers who come to Shalom Hartman Institute do not use the titles colonel or major. Here is a list of some IDF ranks in comparison to U.S. Army ranks. There is a general one-to-one correspondence between U.S. and Israeli army ranks: