The mission statement of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) states that its main goal is to “defend the existence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the state of Israel” and to “protect the inhabitants of Israel and to combat all forms of terrorism which threaten daily life.”
However, it is clear that the IDF does so much more than that.
Israel, often referred to as the “Start Up Nation,” is known for its technological advances in agricultural technology, cyber security, digital health, finance, manufacturing technologies and water innovation.
The IDF is no exception, constantly developing new advances to better serve its mission, while providing education and fun for the younger generation in the process.
During the week of Sukkot and in honor of its 70th anniversary, the IDF held a tech expo featuring past technological advances as well as new developments that will be used in the near future.
According to Anat Gur, marketing and advertising manager for Yahad-United for Israel’s Soldiers, exhibits included robots, flight, boat and parachuting simulators that children and their families could test out, showing them how each was built, the wars for which each technology was used and the new technology being developed.
On display were past technologies such as the F-16 fighter jet (an Israeli Air Force invention), the Namer (Tiger or Leopard) APC tank based on Israel’s Merkava tank and an advanced weapons system called the Mini-Typhoon (developed and manufactured in Israel).
The Merkava Eitan armored personnel carrier, a future technology displayed at the exhibition, will be operational by year 2020.
“The children got to see the army in a very positive way, outside of what they see on the news,” Gur told Breaking Israel News.
“They saw how we use robots in the army and got to go aboard a navy boat. They met soldiers and learned about the IDF’s operational capabilities and its current activity, connecting the new generation to Israel’s Defense Forces,” she said. “It was nice to see all the kids playing with simulators and taking part – it was an impressive event.”
Yahad-United for Israel’s Soldiers was asked to participate in the expo by the event organizers as it is the only body authorized by the Israeli government to pass on donations to the IDF. Between organizations large and small, such as the Friends of the IDF and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), Yahad-United for Israel’s Soldiers raises approximately 200 million shekels each year (nearly $55 million).
At the event, Yahad-United for Israel’s Soldiers sold IDF merchandise, CDs, books and toys, with every purchase going towards their mission of ensuring the welfare of IDF soldiers.
“Through everything they bought at the event, the people were able to give something back to the army, a small gesture of appreciation,” Gur said. “I feel blessed to be able to make an impact on the welfare of Israeli soldiers – I don’t think there’s a better purpose out there.”
Yahad-United for Israel’s Soldiers programs support lone soldiers and soldiers from underprivileged backgrounds. They pay for post-army combat soldiers’ university studies and for soldiers without a parent in Israel (lone soldiers), Yahad-United for Israel’s Soldiers has housing around the country, provides vouchers for the holidays, supports immigrant soldiers’ Hebrew studies and matriculation into Israeli schools. The organization even offers soldiers a round trip home to visit their family during their army service.
Through these programs, not only does Yahad-United for Israel’s Soldiers provide for soldier welfare, the organization also ensures that Israel will continue its prevalence as the Start-Up nation.
“The Israeli army, especially intelligence units, gives soldiers opportunities and experiences that lead them into the fields of technology in the future,” said Gur. “Being a part of the army, you’re encouraged to step out of your comfort zone. You are given the tools to step out of your normal activities, be open to any possibility, act independently and creatively and think out of the box.”
These experiences and tools translate perfectly in a technological and start up environment, posed Gur. “Israel’s army gives soldiers the qualifications to be a commander. It matures a person quickly into a leader and even a CEO,” she said.
Gur, a former education officer in the army, said that her training in the IDF was “one of the best experiences” in her life, giving her “confidence and knowledge to know who I want to be.”
“The army gave me more than it took from me, and now I want to pass on the favor to Israel’s current defense forces,” she declared.
At the IDF expo, Yahad-United for Israel’s Soldiers did just that, giving back while inspiring the next generation of Israel’s soldiers.