The journey will last a week. Its purpose: Create a connection between the kibbutzniks and the IDF, and motivate them to serve in its combat units.
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Additionally – the organizers of the trek hope – the trip will imbue these young Israelis with the will to return to serve as officers, like in the good old days remembered by the older kibbutzniks.
The bicycle expedition occurs annually, only this time a new report casts its long shadow across the riders' path. The IDF Personnel Directorate sent the Kibbutz Movement worrying statistics, which raised concerns about the future relationship between kibbutzim and the military.
The major concern involved the percentages of kibbutzniks who volunteer for the officer corps. In 2012, there was a 3% drop in officer recruitment among kibbutz members. Accordingly, this year's trek will launch at the officer training school in the southern base of Mitzpe Ramon, where the teens will meet with high-ranking officers who will drive home the importance of the job.
The Kibbutz Movement was aware of the trend and, while concerned, was working to address the situation. This year's bicycle trek participants will meet with Southern Command General Sami Turgeman, as well as ministers, members of Knesset, and high-ranking officers who were raised on kibbutzim.
Proud kibbutznik tradition
In the general enlistment figures, however, the kibbutzniks have a reason to be proud. According to the Personnel Directorate, 82% of those with the appropriate profile number actually enlist in combat units. They may not aim for the elite units and the prestigious courses, but they are the backbone of the Infantry and Army Corps.
This year's figures show a sharp rise over last year's, when only 64% of eligible combat soldiers enlisted in those units. Overall, 95% of male kibbutzniks and 94% of female kibbutzniks enlist.
Which kibbutzim have the highest enlistment rates (figures divided according to regional schools)?
- Gilboa (100%)
- Ramat Negev (99%)
- Jezreel Valley (98.9%)
- Merhavim (98.5%)
- Mateh Asher (98.4%)
- Hof Ashkelon (97.4%)
The following schools have the highest enlistment rates for combat units:
- Upper Galilee (Har Vagai) (95%)
- Gilboa (94.7%)
- Hefer Valley (94.1%)
- Nofey Golan (92%)
- Amakim Tavor (Jezreel Valley) (86.2%)
"The Kibbutz Movement has seen and continues to dispatch members to serve in the IDF, and to contribute to the safety and defense of the country. This is how we were raised and I am proud that the youth of today are continuing that legacy, even in the changing reality on the kibbutz and in the country," said secretary-general of the Kibbutz Movement, Eitan Broshi.
He added: "The figures we are presenting regarding raising the motivation among our youth, stand out against a background of a general drop in motivation across the country, as recently publicized by the IDF. The central mission we took on ourselves is to double the percentages of kibbutzniks who graduate the officer course."
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