Jewish Identity Programs For IDF Soldiers and Officers
Israeli Society was created from the stories of numerous communities that arrived from different cultures, yet were rooted in their Jewish heritage. In the Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot, and in the framework of the Koret International School for Jewish Peoplehood within the walls of the Museum, soldiers are given an exceptional opportunity to experience an exciting and inspiring encounter with their families’ roots and heritage. This meeting strengthens their Jewish identity, and their deep connection to the Jewish homeland.
Thanks to this encounter, the security forces become aware of their national mission in safeguarding and defending the State of Israel, by strengthening their sense of belonging and mutual commitment.”
Major General (Ret.) Eitan Ben-Eliahu
The Koret School’s mission and vision for IDF Programs
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers are at a critical stage and juncture in their identity development. When they begin their military service, similar to many young Jewish people their age worldwide, many of them, both immigrants and native Israelis, are somewhat detached from their Jewish Identity.
This disturbing trend has definitely been noted and is of great concern to Israel’s security establishment. Israel’s National Security Council recently issued a report stating that the lack of identification with the Jewish people on the part of young Israelis is a strategic threat to the Jewish state.
We believe that the most opportune time for visiting the Museum is during a soldier’s army service. It is a most crucial period and leaves a profound impact. We see it as a must for every officer and soldier who serves in Zahal, to visit Beit Hatfutsot during his tour of duty, and familiarize himself with the roots of the Jewish people and the unique texture of Israeli society founded on the national narrative of a variety of Jewish communities. This encounter will be an invitation for the officers and soldiers to be both excited and inspired by their family roots and heritage, thereby strengthening their commitment to their army service, leadership and social responsibility, and to appreciating the directions their families had taken throughout the generations.
The programs offered in the museum take into account the diverse makeup of the Israel Defense Forces. Members of the Druze, Bedouin, Muslim, and Christian communities serve in the IDF. These programs are designed to raise the awareness of their own identity and to increase their understanding of the Jewish people.
Soldiers and officers visiting Beit Hatfutsot will encounter the unique and ongoing story of the Jewish people as well as Israeli and Jewish identity through the Museum’s permanent and temporary exhibitions. The Museum’s New Wing, which recently opened this May, has had a profound effect on visiting soldiers who were exposed to the pluralistic reality of Jewish life in the 21st century around the world. This encounter consistently incites curiosity on a subject that has otherwise been deemed as boring or irrelevant by many of Israel’s youth. The variety of resources available at Beit Hatfutsot; audio, visual, interactive computer programs that are user friendly, and an expansive database open to the general public, allows for an experience that is both intellectual and emotional, one that contributes towards a better understanding and internalization of each participant’s Israeli-Jewish identity from a variety of angles and perspectives.
During 2016, 6,000 soldiers and officers visited Beit Hatfutsot.
Engaging soldiers in Army Bases: The Beit Hatfutsot and IDF Genealogy Project.
“The History of my Family is Where my Identity Begins”
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
We believe that the journey to one’s roots begins by getting to know one’s own family, and that the most immediate way to connect to the Jewish Story is through creating a family tree. We are aware that we do not have the ability to reach out to all soldiers in the army and bring them to Beit Hatfutsot because of their military agenda; national security is of top priority. We therefore created a project that allows us to reach out to soldiers by holding significant educational activities through utilization of our extensive online genealogy database, at their army base.
Beit Hatfutsot has amassed a wide range of information on Jewish life through a variety of media. Our collection includes photographs, films, audio and video recordings, genealogical material, family trees, community histories, music and explanations of Jewish family names. The databases and archives are digitized and are accessible via a single interface.
Beit Hatfutsot, in cooperation with the educational wing of the IDF, has created a new mobile-optimized website for the creation of family trees for newly recruited soldiers.
The mobile site looks and feels like an application, and is tailor-made to be a part of the routine acceptance process of the young soldiers, in their initial stage of integration with military life. The service is aimed at providing a way to explore one’s identity, family roots and sense of belonging, while keeping it fun and easy-to-use.
In the first pilot of this project (2016) 5,000 soldiers participated.