Training Troubled Recruits in the IDF And Training Discipleship Students at Revive Israel
By Tal Haroni
Today I help lead discipleship programs at the Revive Israel Community Farm Discipleship Center in the Judean Hills.
Several years back, during my IDF (Israel Defense Forces) compulsory service, I served as a drill sergeant for new recruits at Havat Hashomer (Farm of the Guard) – a basic training base in the Galilee, especially for problematic and underprivileged young men. In a regular army, these challenged young men might not even have been deemed fit to serve. However, since Israel has a “people’s army,” they are given a chance to join and thus be integrated into Israeli society. Many of them do succeed and gain access to future opportunities after their military service. In my role as commander, I received four groups of trainees (each made up of 15 soldiers) from different backgrounds, with all kinds of challenges. During the three months of basic training, I taught them to shoot rifles, administer first aid, operate communications equipment and adapt themselves to army life.
I think there is something in Israeli society, even among the secular Israelis, that is motivated by the Bible and encourages us to reach out those who are weak. Thus, the IDF is willing to ‘waste’ precious resources on these challenged young men. The army is investing in them in order to strengthen their character. This is not something to take for granted. I think it stems from belief in God and not just humane humanity. Another element that contributes to this policy is the importance of Jews banding together after having been persecuted elsewhere.
My army service was hard, but it also gave me a great sense of satisfaction. I had some soldiers who wrote me letters at the end of their training. They shared that I was like a second mother to them, despite the toughness I had to convey as a commander. No one had ever demanded real results from these young men before. We had the slogan, “Demand equals confidence.” So every time I ordered them to do something, it was actually imparting the message that “I believe you can succeed.”
Now at Revive Israel
This is also what we see in Revive Israel discipleship students. Part of what we do is help instill, and even require, various disciplines and habits, such as daily reading of the Scriptures, practical field work cultivating vegetables, etc. The disciples need to be accountable for what they do. In both kinds of training or formation, we are actually imparting good habits for life. In the IDF, it was to be punctual and obey the commanders. Part of both military and spiritual discipleship is also to learn that our actions have consequences. Most of my IDF soldiers did not know what consequences were. They had grown up with no rules and no boundaries. This is what brought many of them to personal crisis. In spiritual discipleship we also impart additional disciplines such as daily scripture meditation.
At the Revive Israel Discipleship Center, we explore how to practically live for God and listen to God. We provide tools for a healthy life routine. Of course, we do not do it with “military” rigidity, but our students are accountable to their supervisors and are expected to be open and transparent with them.
The main springtime session of the Revive Israel Community Farm Discipleship Center is underway, training Israeli young adult interns during the months of February and March. We invite you to partner with us in funding and interceding for it. Good things are happening in the Judean Hills. Praise God!