The IDF’s base of ‘good deeds’

On ‘Day of Good Deeds’ we salute the IDF (Zahal) base that aids soldiers from difficult backgrounds and teaches commanders from every unit how to best accommodate them

Date: 20/03/2012, 11:32 AM     Author: Daniel Temkin, Rotem Eliav

In honor of the ‘Day of Goods Deeds’, celebrated Tuesday (March 20), units across the IDF (Zahal) are taking on projects to better society and the world at large. However at the Havat Hashomer basic training base that drafts soldiers from broken families and underprivileged backgrounds of crime, violence and alcoholism, soldiers and commanders work to improve society every single day.

Located in northern Israel, the pastoral base offers these teens a safe haven, as the IDF (Zahal) embraces them, incorporates them into a positive military environment and ensures they have a better future, with all the necessary support along the way.

Commanders at the base, 90 percent of whom are female soldiers, are led by the motto “With faith in the person standing in front of us,” explained Lt. Bar Rappaport, former commander at the base and current officer of the SIBA (Unique Issues in Israeli Society) unit, responsible for teaching commanders from every unit in the army how to best accommodate and interact with both soldiers coming from difficult backgrounds and new immigrants.

“The soldiers that come here are recognized already in the first steps of the enlistment process, based on psychological assessments,” explained Lt. Rappaport. “Once determined as ‘Special Populations’ soldiers, they arrive at the Havat Hashomer base for basic training with specifically trained commanders. The program continues to support these soldiers throughout their service and assists them in receiving desirable placements in the army. Once they complete their service, the soldiers go through special courses preparing them for the return to civilian life.”

According to Lt. Rappaport the purpose of the base is “to open doors for these teens and offer a new beginning without labeling them. The commanders here fight for these soldiers, without giving up, providing a stable figure in their lives, here to help, listen and tend to their needs.”

“With heightened emotional intelligence and headstrong determination and dedication, these female commanders create a special connection with the soldiers,” explained Lt. Rappaport. She continued to explain that the SIBA course is a crucial part of these commanders’ training.

Through approximately 50 annual seminars held both at Havat Hashomer and bases across the country, SIBA instructors teach about specific populations of underprivileged soldiers, their needs, and practical steps the commander can employ. Some lessons focus on challenges and experiences common among immigrants throughout the world, while other sessions focus on the culture, history, and recent experiences of particular groups of immigrants in Israel.

By familiarizing the participants with their soldiers’ cultures and the challenges that these soldiers may face as immigrants, SIBA seeks to prepare the future commanders to relate to diverse soldiers sensitively and effectively. According to Lt. Rappaport the purpose of the SIBA unit is “to pass the knowledge” from Havat HaShomer to other parts of the IDF (Zahal). But the significance of the seminars is far from limited to theoretical knowledge.