For young adults in Israel, the period of mandatory military service is a pivotal time in their lives.

Serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) can be an empowering experience for most young Israelis. Israel’s military services can offer opportunities to learn new skills, meet a diverse group of new friends and, hopefully, set a positive course for the future, professionally and personally.

Unfortunately, Israel’s at-risk youth population, such as graduates of Yemin Orde Youth Village or Village Way educational partner schools and communities, often face additional challenges as new recruits beside the rigors of military service, such as cultural misunderstandings, language barriers and acceptance within their units.

IDF military commanders attend training in the Village Way methodology.
IDF commanders attend training in the Village Way methodology.

In an effort to build greater understanding and strengthen the morale of young immigrant soldiers, the Village Way Educational Institute is training IDF commanders and officers in the Village Way methodology. In so doing, military commanders serve more as “educators” and work to instill a sense of belonging among all soldiers in their unit.

The Educational Institute’s first training started with the IDF’s Education Corps “Special Populations” department, which oversees young soldiers who are new immigrants, minorities and those with a history of behavioral or mental health issues. Village Way Educational Initiatives is one of a small number of non-profit organizations authorized to operate training sessions across all units in the IDF.

Military commanders as educators

As educators, unit commanders will focus on “ethical fitness,” in which their responsibility extends to building a sense of belonging among all the soldiers in their unit. Cultural diversity is understood to be a positive resource rather than a difficulty to overcome. Commanders learn how encouraging belonging and embracing diversity will not only improve soldier morale, but also improve their tactical capabilities. These learning sessions often include a visit to Yemin Orde Youth Village, where the unit leaders learn about the work at the Village with diverse populations and the practical applications to their work in the field.

IDF incorporates Village Way understanding into military leadership training courses.
IDF has incorporated Village Way methdology training into its leadership training courses.

The IDF sees this Village Way training as important and positive. In recent months, we have integrated Village Way sessions into some of the army’s most prestigious training courses for future leaders in the IDF and those serving as career soldiers, including the Command and Staff College, the Officer Training Base and the Tactical Command College. The IDF has also requested to extend many of these sessions into full-day interactive workshops, and the Educational Institute has been asked to develop a full Village Way course for educational officers.

Israel’s military leaders respond to Village Way impact

One Head Commander from the Command and Staff College noted that the positive feedback from participants in our trainings “keeps coming, from all the those who have taken the course…on the methodology, implementation and impact this will have as they move up to become senior commanders. Thank you so much for the dedication, the desire to help us make a change and paying attention to the need.”

“I have a soldier in my unit whom everyone has already given up on, including me. After today, I decided not to give up and I will do everything I can to include him and to foster a sense of belonging.”

Israel Defense Forces commander following training in the Village Way methodology

Another participating commander noted: “We, as commanders, are obligated to know all of the cultural backgrounds of our soldiers, and it is very important in the Israel Defense Forces that we all be united because we all have one goal.”

The Village Way Educational Initiatives also works in a variety of other communities in Israel, besides the IDF, that are outside of a traditional educational setting. Find out more about how the Village Way methodology is helping to change young lives at Ofek Juvenile Prison, Israeli scouts program and more.

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