1,200 students study in pre-army yeshivot
1,200 in pre-army yeshivot
by Arieh O'Sullivan
March 10, 2002
TEL AVIV (March 10) - There are 13 religious military-preparatory yeshivas and seven secular pre-army "yeshivas" in the country, where some 1,200 students study before joining the IDF. They are scattered across the country from the Golan Heights to Atzmona in Gush Katif.
Each one has an average of about 60 students, who defer their army service for a year. Students at the religious yeshivas mix Talmudic studies with Jewish philosophy and the writings of religious-Zionist thinkers like Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Kook. They study from morning to past midnight, and twice a week those who are interested do physical fitness training to prepare them for basic training.
"They come to get spiritual, not physical strength," said Rabbi Moshe Hagar, head of the Beit Yatir pre-army yeshiva. "It is hard to be religious in the army today. We teach them the love of the land, the love of Israel and responsibility. The stress is on responsibility."
The first pre-army yeshivas were established about 15 years ago and tapped into a current that national-religious leaders had been hesitant to touch for years. It answered a need for highly motivated observant youth to serve in the regular army by endowing them with the confidence to serve with secular soldiers, without being tempted to relax religious standards.
The impact of their graduates has been phenomenal, with large percentages serving in combat units and many taking leadership roles in the IDF's top units.
The secular kibbutz movement and other groups have attempted to follow the success and have set up seven "yeshivas" of their own. There, students also study Judaism as well as Zionist history and social studies.
Atzmona, which was attacked on Thursday night, is considered by all to be the top pre-army yeshiva. Entrance is highly competitive.
"They are the best. The last pilots' class had three graduates of Atzmona," Hagar said. Hagar said he believes they are strong enough to get over the bloody attack.
"The students go to the pre-army yeshivas for themselves, not for the name. They don't receive any kind of diploma," Hagar told the Post.
The program, run by former IAF pilot Rabbi Rafi Perets, was established approximately 10 years ago, he said.
(Margot Dudkevitch contributed to this report.)
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