Elite Soldiers, Engaged Citizens, and Geographic Diversity: Meet Shalem’s Tenth Academic Class
Noga Dolev Abuhav was nearly two years into a promising career in media when she decided to press pause—or make that five years, if you include her army service as a culture reporter for the IDF’s official radio station. “After working on a wide range of documentaries, talk shows, and features for Israel’s Channel 12, I realized that if I wanted to make an impact as a journalist, I needed to build on a stronger base,” she explains. “I wanted to be able to approach key issues with more nuance, complexity, and a much broader perspective.”
Today, nearly four months into her freshman year at Shalem, Dolev Abuhav is more than satisfied with how much broader her perspective has become.
“Over the course of a single day, we’ll approach the same subject from a historical angle, then from within philosophy, and then see that same theme emerge in a course on literature or science. It’s amazing,” she concludes, “how everything is connected. Being able to see and appreciate those connections is exactly why I’m here.”
Dolev Abuhav is one of 50 freshmen in the Class of 2026, which holds the distinction of being Shalem’s tenth academic class—and its most diverse to date, with more than 30 percent hailing from communities in Israel’s socioeconomic and geographic peripheries. In most ways, however, the class looks very similar to the ones that came before: an exceptional group of accomplished young people who have spent years in service of their country—many in the IDF’s most elite units—and who are now turning with equal conviction toward their own intellectual, ethical, and cultural formation.
One former combat soldier is Roy Hatsor, who was attracted to Shalem not only for the opportunity to learn so many different subjects. It was also, he explains, the college’s emphasis on involved citizenship and influencing society.
A musician and athlete from an early age who decided to study Talmud “to open new worlds of content before starting down a path from which I couldn’t turn back,” Hatsor chose to spend a year before army service at Mechinat Tavor, the pre-army leadership academy founded by Zionist persona and MK Amichai Chikli. Exploring the tension between his Jewish, Israeli, and Western identities was “challenging and important and exhilarating,” he says, and he was inspired by his fellow students’ idealism and social activism. After serving for five years in an elite special-forces unit, first as a soldier and then as a field commander and medic in charge of training, Hatsor chose to serve a sixth year as an officer at Havat Hashomer. There, he trained youth from criminal or troubled backgrounds, starting them on a path to productive citizenship by means of military service.
“When I think of my time in the IDF, what makes me most proud isn’t my having managed tasks or operations,” explains Hatsor. “It’s that I managed people, and I helped individuals to get to a place where they could make their own positive impact on the country.”
After his release from the army, Hatsor spent a year meeting with people from a variety of professions—from politicians to CEOs to founders of educational initiatives—in an attempt to determine how best to make his own positive impact. The recurring takeaway from all these conversations, he explains, was the need to learn—and learn a lot—first.
“Shalem was the only place I could find that truly offered a holistic education, and not just a degree for a specific profession,” he says. “It was clear that this was the place that would provide me with the platform from which to operate effectively in almost any field. More important,” he continues, “It was the only place that put service at the center of the experience. At Shalem, it’s not an extra-curricular activity, but an integral part of the curriculum itself.”
Just a few months into his first year, Roy has already started to avail himself of some of Shalem’s extra-curricular activities, including DiploAct, an initiative that prepares Israeli college students to serve as spokespeople for their country on American college campuses. He also joined Shiputz Shalem, the Shalem student organization that renovates the homes of disadvantaged families near campus. Calling it “deeply grounding,” he explains that he’s gratified to be part of a student body that values giving back to society.
“I love the learning, but more so, I love the learning community. The students here are committed to creating a meaningful experience in class, and to effecting change far outside the classroom, as well,” Hatsor states. “I have no doubt that together, we will do incredible things.”