In a rare public appearance, the deputy commander of the IDF’s elite intelligence-gathering Unit 8200 dedicated much of his address at the annual Cyber Week conference at Tel Aviv University last week to the roots of the unit’s success: Israeli youth. Beyond being quality individuals on a personal level, he said, young Israelis entering military services have also accumulated knowledge and expertise while rising through the education system.
However, it is fair and even worthy to note that although this assessment pertains to a relatively large portion of Israeli youngsters, mostly from the center of the country, who have received an excellent education, many of their contemporaries have not had the same privilege—certainly not those residing in the country’s periphery. It is also fair to wonder whether this success is sustainable as the education system struggles in the absence of requisite resources and a shortage of teachers.
The Israeli education system is capable of producing strong thinkers and doers—scientists, engineers, cyber experts and more, who can lead society and the country to a better future while maintaining and even increasing our qualitative edge over our enemies.
In the sphere around us, on the other hand, the picture is drastically different. The deep political, social and mainly economic crises afflicting Arab countries and even Iran are only getting worse, while the damage to their education systems is particularly severe.
The Middle East has seen accelerated population growth in recent decades, from some 100 million people in 1960 to around 400 million in 2010, and a likely 750 million by 2050. The countries of the region, however, are struggling to keep pace and meet the needs of their populations. This has resulted in material shortages and distress, rampant unemployment and impaired health, welfare and education services.