The Yaacov Herzog Center
The Yaacov Herzog Center
Kibbutz Ein Tsurim
office@merkazherzog.org.il
Tel. 972-8-860-8330

Tzahali Academy

Background

Tzahali is a pre army Academy for religious women who want to serve in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Over the years an increasing number of religious young women chose to serve in the IDF as they viewed their mission to be totally involved in Israeli society and fulfill their obligations as equal citizens of the State. Tzahali was established to prepare these women for meaningful service in the IDF, integrate them into Israeli society, and subsequently take on significant roles as women in Israel without losing their religious identity.

Narrative

A religious woman who decides to enlist in the IDF finds herself in two minorities; a woman in what is viewed as a man's world and a religious person in a secular environment.  Tzahali strengthens the religious identity of the cadets, empowers them as women, and develops in them a greater awareness and openness for the diversity of Israeli society.  After a year at the Academy, the cadets join the IDF more mature, better prepared, and with a greater awareness of their mission.  As a result they are better soldiers.

The program includes intensive Judaic studies, classroom learning and experiencing the diversity of Israel through four "excursions/trips" to different areas in Israel, as well as becoming physically and mentally prepared for army service.  The cadets are responsible for their daily schedule; and prepare special programming including the "excursion/trips".

Goals

  •  Strengthening the participants' religious and feminist identities through in depth study of a diverse and open Judaism
  •  Leadership development, learning responsibility, group living skills, and empowering each individual
  • Exposing the participants to Israeli society in all its diversity and complexity and developing pluralistic thinking
  • Preparing the women emotionally, mentally, and physically for meaningful army service.

Types of Activities

Tzahali Academy is a 10 month intensive experience, and the participants are involved in multiple areas of study and immersion which create the base for continued involvement including:

  • In-depth, existential and relevant Jewish Studies
  • Preparation for Army service
  • Understanding Israeli society through meaningful dialogue with its different groups including four multiple day educational excursions to different areas in Israel
  • Volunteer Social Action Activities
  • Programming for Tzahali Graduates

Impact/Outcomes

Tzahali Academy, founded in 2006, was the first of its kind in Israel.  It has grown from 18 cadets in its first year to about 100 women who are participating this year (Tzahali's Bat Mitzvah year). Tzahali cadets are successfully breaking through what was a glass ceiling.  Tzahali graduates are able to serve meaningfully in a much wider array of IDF units, while also helping to prepare these units for more religious women in the future.  The IDF is interested because they want quality soldiers so they are willing to adapt the units to the unique needs of religious women.

Tzahali is at the forefront of a behavior shift in the Religious Zionist community.  IDF service is now viewed by most in the community as a choice that religious women can make without it affecting their religious commitment.  The decision between army service and national service (Sherut Leumi)i is no longer a religious question.  It is now a decision of where the woman thinks she can best serve the State.

Women who either volunteered through Sherut Leumi or did not serve at all often attended colleges or other post high school programs for women only.  As a result they often segregate themselves from Israeli society at large.  This "brain drain" is a loss to Israel's economy.  Tzahali is reversing this and as a result Israel can be a healthier, more equal, and more productive State.

Tzahali is also at the forefront of a cultural change for religious women as over the last ten years the number of religious women serving in the army has doubled.     

Since Tzahali was established the number of women who have applied to Tzahali has grown exponentially (by more than 10 times).  Women are recruited from all over the country.  Every year women apply from an increasing number of high schools. 

Tzahali alumni (about 450 women) have meaningful army service and about 25% of them become IDF officers and a good number have chosen the career path and are on their way to top level positions. During this Bat Mitzvah year we are strengthening our programming with our alumni while they serve in the I.D.F., as they leave the army, during their years of study, and as they become more involved in Israeli society as young adults.  Many of our alumni stay in touch with the Academy, share their experience with the current cadets, and continue to be inspired by the "Beit Midrash" where they learned and took the initial steps in their advancement.

After their service Tzahali alumni attend co-ed universities and participate fully in Israeli life taking their place in Israeli society professionally while sharing in the responsibility of the ongoing development of Israeli culture. 

To view Tzhali website in hebrew


Design: Dov Abramson
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