Female soldier-teachers: army, education and a new state: Army, education and a new state

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This article deals with the topic of female soldiers teaching in Israeli primary schools in immigrant communities in the periphery in the 1950s and 1960s. At that time there was a great shortage of teachers, owing to the enormous increase in the number of pupils in the education system, in the wake of the great waves of immigration. Ben-Gurion decided that the army must forgo this quality labour force, suitable for service as officers, to meet the education needs of the outlying areas. The soldier-teachers were young girls, most of them born in the country, who had gone through the Hebrew education system, had 12-14 years of schooling and perceived their teaching in immigrant settlements as voluntary pioneering work. They were the representatives of the two main socializing agents of the new state - the army and the education system. The IDF considered them to be soldiers, lent out to perform civilian tasks, and paid their salaries and was responsible for their living conditions, including their lodging, while the Ministry of Education perceived them as bearers of knowledge, teaching children living in the periphery. However, the female soldier-teachers, living within the immigrant communities, also functioned in other capacities, such as advising their pupils' older sisters and assisting the families in various ways. Some of the schoolgirls also saw them as examples of educated independent women. Through their activity, these soldier-teachers actually embodied the multifaceted formative ethos of Israeli society: Jewish sovereignty, intermingling of exiles and immigrant absorption (the melting pot version), formal gender equality (military service for women), and commitment by the modern state to provide basic education for all its citizens.
Original languageEnglish GB
Pages (from-to)297-313
Number of pages17
JournalIsrael Affairs
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2010


  • female soldier teachers
  • immigration
  • Israel -- Social conditions
  • Israel. Tseva haganah le-Yiśraʼel -- Women
  • national education
  • socialization agent
  • Teachers -- Israel


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