Half of IDF's New Combat Officers are Religious
16 Elul 5767, 30 August 07 03:02By: Gil
(IsraelNN.com) Half of the IDF's young combat officers are religious Jews,
according to statistics published as the lead story Sunday in Maariv,
Israel's second largest daily newspaper. The report also says that about 40% of
the cadets of the most recent Officer Course in Bahad-1, the IDF's officer
training school, were religious; this number refers to all officers, as opposed
to just combat officers.
"This says something very good about the sons of the religious Zionist
movement," opines the writer of the piece, senior correspondent Ben Caspit.
"They are becoming the IDF's backbone. Their presence in the army is several
times larger than it is in the general population."
"They give their entire soul"
"Any way we look at it," he
says, "it's about education." It is clear, Caspit states, that "the religious
Zionist movement's educational institutions continue to disseminate values,
Zionism, Judaism and mission orientation. The religious youth is
mission-oriented. [It sets out to] conquer the hilltops, and then to conquer the
military service and the officership."
The entry of the religious Zionists into the officer corps began after the
Yom Kippur War, says Caspit, when Major-Generals Yair Naveh and Elazar Stern
entered service, and "continues with the pre-military academies, which send a
sizeable percentage of their graduates to the Officers' Course." The "Hesder"
yeshivas, he says – the seminaries that combine religious study with a shortened
army service – do not contribute many officers.
"They do everything willingly, with their entire soul," Caspit says of the
religious Zionist soldiers. Alongside them one finds, he claims, many youths
from the socialist-agricultural moshav and kibbutz movements, as well as
soldiers from new-immigrant and lower-income families who see the military as a
chance for upward social mobility.
However, what Caspit refers to as "the First Israel" - the middle and upper
classes - is no longer very visible among the officers. More and more of its
sons either actively evade service, or opt for what he calls "a gray evasion" –
the employment of various tricks to serve less time, serve closer to home, and
without endangering themselves. "They find all the ways in the world to fool the
system, to see the IDF as some foreign element which is meant to curtail their
personal advancement, independent thought, private ambition and other legitimate
aspirations of 21st century man."
Caspit sees this trend as a worrying one and calls for urgent action to raise
the motivation of non-religious Israelis to serve and excel. He does not specify
what this action might be.
Religious Zionists have
often noted, in the course of political debates, that their youth plays a
disproportionate role in the IDF, but secular Israelis have usually denied this.
The article by Caspit, one of Israel's top journalists and the author of several
books, including biographies of Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, can be seen
as an admission by a secular Israeli that the religious Zionists have been right
on this subject.
The statistics are important for Israeli society because the IDF is seen as
the nation's backbone and its pride. Since the State of Israel was founded it
has had five native-born Prime Ministers, four of whom were from the military:
Yitzchak Rabin, Netanyahu, Barak and Ariel Sharon. Rabin and Barak both served
as IDF Chiefs of Staff, Sharon was a Major-General and Netanyahu was an officer
in an elite unit that was commanded by his brother, Yoni, who was himself a
military hero killed in the rescue of passengers from a hijacked Air France
jet in Uganda in 1976. Thus, traditionally, service as combat officers goes
hand in hand with leadership potential.
Another reason these statistics are significant is that many religious
soldiers have been refusing orders to evict Jews from their homes in Judea,
Samaria and Gaza. If half of the IDF's new officers are religious, this means
that the refusal movement could indeed have a deep deterrent impact on the IDF
and government when and if it decides to attempt additional pullouts from
Original article: Israel National News
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