A Path to Success

Starting college is a milestone that most young adults look forward to. It’s also the stepping stone to carving out a path to success. 

 

But for soldiers who need a little help, the Libi Fund, the official body for donations that go directly to IDF soldiers, offers an innovative scholarship program to IDF troops upon completion of their military service. 

 

“Those who think about days, sow wheat. Those who think about years, plant trees. Those who think about generations, educate soldiers,” Yoram Yair, the president of Yachad United For Israel’s Soldier’s, which works closely with LIBI, said in a speech introducing the program which is dubbed “Uniform to University.” 

 

As such, that program will ensure that every soldier will be able to pursue higher education or vocational training.

 

For many soldiers, this program is a game-changer.

Take Lt. Col. N, who remarked that such a program gives soldiers a much-needed boost of energy as they begin their life as adults. 

 

In fact, when soldiers first heard they were entitled to scholarships back in 2016, Lt. Col. Benni Aharon recalled that it was the main topic of conversation in dining rooms at IDF bases across the country. 

 

For the young men and women who literally put their lives on hold to protect Israel, it is yet another initiative given to them which makes them feel appreciated. 

 

“Soldiers understood that their daily activities and sacrifice is not being taken for granted by the government or the citizens of Israel,” Aharon added.

 

For soldiers like Sergeant Rotem Karas, who never even considered getting a bachelor’s degree after his army service, this scholarship program changed the entire course of his life. 

 

“I’m grateful that the military will help with my advancement in life. Knowing that they will foot the bill will make it much easier to study,” he said.  

 

The details of the program were ironed out during a meeting with former IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and then Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon. Eisenkot called on the ministry to help obtain funding to not just combat soldiers, but anyone who completes their service successfully. As such, the program won’t only change the lives of IDF soldiers, scholarship funding will also be allocated to new immigrants, minorities, and families struggling financially.

 

In addition to this program, LIBI also provides educational courses while soldiers are still in the middle of their army services. This allows them to complete the classes they need to matriculate, which will make the transition to university be easier once they’re discharged. 

 

“Sometimes, soldiers leave the army and feel they need to start from scratch when it comes to building their life as an adult,” LIBI Chairman Dr. John Grossman, said. “These mechanisms being put in place – supplemental education coupled with a scholarship upon completion of services helps these fine young men and women not only get a clearer sense of who they want to be, but how they can pave the path to get there.”

 

Helping such a wide swath of young people carries a hefty bill. Specifically, Ynet reported the program would cost some NIS 500 million per year. 

 

Underwriting much of the cost is the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers and the Friends of the IDF (FIDF) organizations.

 

Supporters of the scholarship fund hope that this will equalize opportunities for soldiers since some who hail from elite combat units automatically get scholarship funds, but other soldiers from other impressive – but not as prestigious units – were not entitled to a scholarship. 

 

 

With donations from generous supporters from all over the world to the Uniform to University program, LIBI ensures that every soldier will be able to obtain a college degree or vocational training. 

A Day of Mourning and Redemption

The Jewish people are now in the midst of what is perhaps the saddest time of year – the nine days. During this time, they deprive themselves of meat, wine and partaking in joyous occasions. It’s a time to not only mourn but reflect upon the lessons learned from the destruction of their holy temple.

Those nine days, of course, culminate in Tisha B’Av. It is a day when the Jewish people fast and pray to God over a Temple that wasn’t just destroyed once, but twice. First, by the and then by the Romans. And hundreds of years later, in another humiliating defeat, the Bar Kochba Revolt was brutally suppressed by the Romans on the very same day.

When the First Temple was destroyed, 100,000 Jews perished with it. And when the Roman Emperor Titus commanded his soldiers to destroy the Second Temple in 70 CE, some 2 million Jews died. It could have spelled the end of the Jewish people, however, through hope and prayer they persevered.

But the tragedies kept on coming. The horrific events falling on Tisha B’Av don’t end there. That day, too, marked the expulsion of Jews from England in 1290 and then their banishment from Spain in 1492. In modern times, the AMIA bombing in Argentina in 1994, also, took place on that day.

Fast forward to now and luckily much has changed. For one, Israel has a homeland of its own and doesn’t need to rely on foreign hospitality. More importantly, however, it also has a strong army who will ensure the Jewish people will be protected.

“IDF soldiers are, of course, allowed to fast on Tisha B’Av and are exempted from engaging in strenuous physical activity,” Dr. John Grossman, Chairman of LIBI USA, the official welfare fund of the IDF, said. “It is the least we can do for our men and women who give their all to ensure another Tisha B’Av tragedy won’t happen on Israeli soil.”

Further, the significance of Tisha B’Av applies even to non-observant Jews because of the sheer emotional weight of the day. As a recent feature in JNS explains, “In fact, Tisha B’Av…is all about memory, the collective memory of the Jewish people, as much a family as it is a religion.”

It is fitting then, that the IDF not only protects Jews as a nation but as a family.

“Despite our differences, we are all one. And I can’t think of any institution that serves as a better equalizer than the IDF. Whether you’re rich or poor, religious or secular, Ashkenazi or Sephardi, you’re putting on that uniform and making the ultimate sacrifice in order to protect fellow Jews,” Grossman explained.

That’s not to say Israel has been free of tragedy since the establishment of the state. Quite the contrary, merely five years ago, the nation was grappling with Operation Protective Edge. That seven-week conflict left 67 soldiers and six civilians dead. It is those IDF soldiers who put their lives on the line so Hamas terrorists, who dug dozens of tunnels underground, won’t seep into civilian territory wreaking havoc upon Israel and Israelis.

“It is fitting then, as we commemorate this sorrowful holiday, to think and pray for all the men and women who died so the Jewish People – Am Israel could live,” Grossman said.

In fact, Camp Ramah in the Rockies does just that. Since it’s the only Jewish holiday to fall in the summer, counselors use Tisha B’Av as a lesson to rejoice in one’s Jewish identity but also to never forget those who sacrificed everything they have. It is there that campers read the names of family and friends who served in previous Israeli wars as a way to honor this sacred day – that way, the next generation not only joins in marking the somber occasion but also learns to not take their existence for granted.

“We remember all the destructions of the Jewish people, including the Holocaust and the Israeli soldiers who died defending the land of Israel,” camp director Rabbi Eliav Bock told JNS.

Ultimately, though, Tisha B’Av is also a holiday of hope and redemption. Because it is only until the Messiah comes that the Temple will be restored to its former glory and the Jewish people will become whole once again.

But until that day happens, we wait and protect and cherish the Land of Israel and the soldiers who help us do so.

The Most Successful Start-Up Protecting the Jewish State

At face value, all armies share the same basic goal: protect its people. 

But as anyone who has served in the IDF knows, the Israeli army has become a unique hub of innovation that many other armies wish to emulate.

Why?

General Aviv Kochavi, the IDF’s Chief of Staff explained that “the IDF itself is one of the country’s central economic growth engines.” As such, he says, the IDF helps provide jobs and with the move of its cyber hub to Beersheva, has helped enhance that geographical desirability of Israel’s South.

The IDF at its core is a hub of innovation and manpower. It takes young Israelis from all across the country and gives them the tools they need in order to succeed when they embark on a career outside of the military. 

“Israel is a leader in innovation much thanks to compulsory service in its military,” Kochavi added.

Recruits, of course, need to go through a thorough round of physical and mental tests prior to enlistment. Those tests look beyond economic status, religion and – usually – even gender, to see what are the unique talents and abilities of each person. Then, once that person is placed in the unit that could best be served by those talents, they get to work. 

“These men and women who serve and protect Israel, aren’t just fulfilling their civic duty. They’re being primed to be the best and the brightest Israel has to offer for the next generation,” Dr. John Grossman, Chairman of LIBI-USA, the official welfare fund of the IDF, marveled.

In fact, the IDF is drafting plans to create a whole division dedicated to innovation and the development of technological systems, according to a recent Globes article. 

And while details regarding that division are hazy at the moment, the new division’s goal will be to develop and enhance weapons systems that will combat future threats and challenges the IDF is bound to face in the future. 

Of course, the IDF is well-renowned for the systems it has already had a hand in creating like the Iron Dome – an anti-missile defense system that saved an untold number of lives during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. 

As for the Iron Dome, the IDF is constantly working on improving not only that system but the alerts that notify civilians when rockets are launched at Israeli soil. This year, the Home Front Command revealed a new, more precise system informing civilians when they are in danger. Israel used to be divided into 255 alert areas, meaning that some would hear the harrowing siren even though they were nowhere near where the rocket was estimated to fall. Now, the country is divided into 1,700, making sure only those really susceptible to danger will have to drop everything and seek shelter. 

It also boasts of an elite unit dedicated solely to cybersecurity and intelligence -Unit 8200. That highly secretive unit – that wasn’t even spoken about a decade go – is at the forefront of the combat the latest cyber warfare threats.  

“When one thinks of the brave men and women who serve in the IDF, combat soldiers in the field are usually the first to come to mind. And although they should certainly be applauded for putting their lives on the line every day, let’s not forget these whip-smart young men and women who prevent Israel from succumbing to dangerous hacks that can cripple the entire country,” Grossman said.

And those threats are very real. As Yossi Melman, one of the top defense journalists in Israel, remarked, “Iran is trying to attack Israeli computers—civilian, military, intelligence—day and night.”

And, in many ways, the IDF becomes a training ground for these tech geniuses to make big waves once they’re released from the army. For Unit 8200 alone, its alumni have gone on to launch mega-companies like Waze, Check Point and Wix. 

8200 became the country’s internal R&D hub–the fuel for Startup Nation–with staffing numbers that grew apace and an expanding mission in an Internet-driven world,” Forbes reported.

The unit is responsible for providing intelligence for many critical operations in Israel’s history. For example, it was 8200 intelligence that helped Israel bomb a Syrian nuclear reactor back in 2007.  

These threats are constant and, in many cases, the public is only notified of IDF intelligence triumphs years after the fact. 

“Whether it be underground, in the air or at sea, the IDF consistently creates new, unprecedented ways to keep the people of Israel safe,” Grossman said. “We owe our gratitude to their ingenuity and ability to think outside the box and it’s our obligation then, to ensure they are constantly operating in the most comfortable environment so they can continue to churn out these indispensable innovations.”