IDF Col. Yaniv Avitan, recipient of the prestigious 2018 Israel Defense Prize of the Israeli Ministry of Defense, returned to his Boys Town Jerusalem alma mater for a close look at how the next generation is being prepared to meet Israel’s defense challenges. Col. Avitan, who heads the renowned IDF team which developed a technological means to detect Hamas terrorist tunnels, told BTJ students that Israel’s survival depends on our ability to out-innovate the enemy’s rapidly growing prowess.

For Col. Avitan, harnessing technology to protect Israeli lives is both his military and personal passion. Col. Avitan’s handpicked team of soldiers for his prize-winning IDF Field Intelligence Technological Unit is composed mainly of experts in engineering, physics, and math. Under his leadership, they have made the IDF the world’s first army to possess an effective means to detect terrorist tunnels. In Yaniv Avitan’s case, this rings close to home: his own family lives within the immediate proximity of deadly tunnels discovered in Israel’s south.

The 1994 Boys Town Jerusalem grad stressed to today’s students that his unit’s breakthrough is not only technological in nature, but also in the way people work: his technology professionals leave their laboratory to go out in the field. “Their most crucial asset is not necessarily their knowledge, but their supreme values,” he said. “These values have fueled the dedication and perseverance that led to the phenomenal discovery of 15 attack tunnels to date.

These core values, Col. Avitan stressed, were the hallmark of his studies at Boys Town Jerusalem. Born and raised in the southern town of Netivot, Yaniv followed two older brothers to Boys Town Jerusalem. “I spent six crucial years living and studying at this school. Our curriculum was challenging and intensive, and our teachers and rabbis demanded the very best.”  Senior Rabbi Mordechai Gordon noted that Yaniv was one of the first (and best) students in BTJ’s pioneering Comprehensive Interdisciplinary Technology program.

During the visit, Boys Town Jerusalem students at all levels shared the latest curriculum innovations with the acclaimed grad.   Col. Avitan was visibly delighted as 9th grade robotics enthusiast Yair Zabit demonstrated the Lego-based robot that his team built. “This is the basis for teaching system engineering to the next generation,” declared Avitan.

As the colonel was briefed on the latest accomplishments of the school’s, he pledged to take concrete steps to strengthen the ties between Boys Town Jerusalem and the Israeli military. “I have a personal interest in making this happen,” he said. “At every point in my career, I always remember the foundation that I got at Boys Town Jerusalem. This synergy of academics and ethical values gives me the strength to surge ahead each day.”

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