The Havatzalot Program (Hebrew: תכנית חבצלות) is an elite program in the Israel Defense Forces, based upon the concept of Talpiot program, aimed to train highly skilled intelligence officers. Havatzalot's cadets complete a full three-year bachelor's double major degree. The first major is a unique compilation of different courses in Middle Eastern studies, political science and sociology. The cadets are free to choose their second major at the Hebrew University in addition to rigorous military and intelligence training. The training is followed by six years in key positions in Israel's Military Intelligence Directorate.
Suitability to Havatzalot program
The suitability to the Havatzalot program is tested and evaluated in several aspects. First, the candidates must be curious and have an affinity to current events and issues on the security agenda of the State of Israel. Second, they are required to have high learning abilities and to be outstanding students in high school. In addition, they must have high social skills and the ability to lead. This is due both to the nature of the program's training and to the nature of the subsequent positions, in which graduates of the program are required to command teams through intensive and joint work.
Candidates for the Havatzalot program are required to have a "quality group" (one of the primary screening tools for candidates for service in the IDF) of 55 and above, and a primary psychotechnical rating (a grade given by the IDF and the Israel Police to candidates for recruitment, which is supposed to reflect the candidate's intellectual ability, based on a series of psychometric tests) of 80 or higher.
The selection process includes:
- A web-based questionnaire - those who meet the criteria (ISR 55, 80) will receive a letter to their home asking them to fill out a questionnaire on the Internet, mainly to familiarize themselves with the students' academic and social background.
- Cognitive tests - general knowledge tests, logic, programming, languages, mathematics, etc.
- Explanation conference - The explanation conference is designed to acquaint the candidates with the training of Havatzalot in an in-depth and detailed manner. As part of the conference, the candidates will meet with graduates and apprentices of the program, with a chance to answer their questions.
- Group dynamics tests - during which the candidates will be tested on team work, stress work, the ability to analyze situations, draw conclusions and more.
- Personal interview - a personal interview will be conducted in the presence of an intelligence officer who is a graduate of the program and an "Itur" (IDF's intelligence selection and sorting organization) officer.
- Psychologist Day - the candidate is required to undergo a number of personal tests, including an interview with a psychologist whose purpose is to examine his suitability for service in the Intelligence Corps in general and in the Havatzalot program in particular.
- Officer examinations - the program graduates go to officers' course, and therefore the candidates must undergo placement tests at the Tel Hashomer base.
- Security investigation - a security investigation is intended to determine the suitability of candidates for exposure to classified information, in accordance with the information security procedures in Military Intelligence.
- Admission requirements for the University - In addition to these stages, the candidates must meet the Hebrew University requirements.
The training program for Havatzalot is one of the longest and most prestigious in the IDF, and provides the students with the knowledge, thinking skills and values required for graduates of the program in their positions. Each year about 40 trainees are accepted into the program. The program is 36 months long, and most of it takes place in closed base conditions in the program's compound in the Hebrew University. All of the terms of service and training content, including tuition fees for the academic degree, are fully funded by the IDF. Also, all the officers commanding during the training are graduates of the Havatzalot program. The training of Havatzalot can be divided into four main points: academy, military, intelligence, and ideological values.
The students study for a bachelor's degree in an expanded dual-disciplinary program at the Hebrew University. The first subject, a 60-credit interdisciplinary group that combines International Relations, Sociology and Middle Eastern Studies, is identical and uniform to all trainees, and provides students with a broad knowledge base on the history of the Middle East, Arab society, and political systems. The second subject (also 60 credits) is chosen by each and every apprentice from the following options: economics, mathematics, computer science or philosophy.
The military training of Havatzalot begins with basic training, and continues with officers’ course and army series, during which the program's students learn about the army's activity, from the tactical level to the general staff.
The training of Havatzalot begins with combat training in Nitzanim, out of a perception that the students and apprentices of the program must familiarize themselves with the army and the system, and meet the experience of the field. During the course of the first year, the students embark on a series of trips in order to provide them with a deeper understanding of the field.
At the end of the first year of training and before the start of the second year, the program trainees undergo the officer training course at the Training Base 1 (Bahad 1). The program graduates receive the officers' ranks at the end of the three-year training period.
The intelligence training is intended to provide graduates of the program with basic knowledge from all the different systems in the Military Intelligence.
The trainees learn the intelligence profession in parallel to their academic studies. The intelligence training includes a deepening of the understanding of the research disciplines dealt with by MI and the other intelligence bodies in Israel, alongside the handling of up-to-date intelligence information and knowledge of the various units in Military Intelligence.
The program trainees take courses in all intelligence subjects, which are spread over the three years of training. In addition, they undergo excursions and annexations to field levels, exercises and intelligence series in the various units.
At the end of the second year of training, each trainee receives a research project of one month in one of the Military Intelligence systems, at the end of which the trainee presents his products to senior personnel in the Corps. The project enables the trainees to experience the intelligence work outside the framework of the training facility.
Moral leadership training
Because of the designation of graduates of the Havatzalot program - to be commanders in Military Intelligence - the training also emphasizes the development of the leadership abilities of its students, including through frontal learning, experiences in transferring content, and responsibility for the ongoing functioning of the training program. For example, the third year trainees command the trainees in the first and second years, and are entrusted with their personal development and the general functioning of the training complex. In this way the trainees experience in commandment and personal development, under the close supervision of the program's staff.
During the third year of training, the placement of the trainee is chosen in an orderly process, in which the student's preferences (research and/or intelligence) are examined, along with his abilities and his suitability for the position (according to the assessment of the commanders and the head of the program). At the end of the placement process, the position for the first two years of permanent service is chosen, out of the six years of graduates’ careers that they signed upon at the beginning of the training.
The graduates are assigned to core and value-added officer positions only in the entire intelligence community and its various bodies, including the Military Intelligence Research Division, the Special Operations Division, the various intelligence units in the IDF (504, 8200, 9900 and more), the intelligence units in the regional commands and divisions, in the Israel Air Force intelligence and in the navy intelligence.
At the end of the training the graduates are granted the rank of segen (lieutenant), and after two years they receive the rank of seren (captain). For graduates who wish to continue their service in the corps beyond the initial commitment (six years) and who prove themselves capable are granted the rank of rav-seren (major) even during the initial permanent service.
The graduates' service in the corps includes a major emphasis on transition - experience in a variety of research disciplines, an in-depth and interdisciplinary knowledge of intelligence work, and a broad understanding. As a result, most of the graduates pass every two years between different units within the Israeli intelligence community and gain extensive experience in a variety of intelligence activities (a feature that is considered unusual in the intelligence corps).
Another major component of the graduates' service is the connectivity that exists between the graduates - an unmediated connection between graduates of the same year, or from different years, which are spread throughout the corps, enabling creative moves, and breaking bureaucratic walls and promoting innovative collaborations.
- Elite Military Intelligence cadets complete training- The Jerusalem Post, 11/11/2013