IDF soldiers investigating a tunnel in Gaza
IDF soldiers investigating a tunnel in Gaza Photo by IDF
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The commander of the army’s storied Givati Brigade says that studying Torah “protects the people of Israel more than anything else.”

IDF Col. Ofer Winter said in an interview with the latest issue of the ultra-Orthodox newspaper Mishpacha (Family) that “anyone who can sit and study [Torah] – it’s his duty to do so. In a time of war the thing the people of Israel require most is for Torah students to sit and study the Torah more intensively,” he says.

Winter made headlines three weeks ago, at the start of Operation Protective Edge, when he declared “holy war” on the Palestinians in an official IDF dispatch to his troops.

He said he tells the soldiers before they go into battle, “Shma Yisrael, you’re going to war today.”

Winter said all his soldiers, even the most secular ones, pray “with great intent” before going to battle. “When a person’s life is in danger, he connects with his deepest inner truth and when that happens, even the greatest heretic meets God,” he said.

Referring in the interview to those who criticized his “holy war” dispatch, Winter said, “Anyone who attacked me probably saw weapons only in pictures, never took part in a battle and doesn’t know what fighting spirit is.”

In his Protective Edge dispatch three weeks ago, Winter made great use of Biblical references, telling his troops they were going to war “to wipe out an enemy” who “curses and defames God.”

The letter, titled, “The commander’s battle orders,” stresses that the troops’ mission is to “wipe out the enemy and lift the threat from the people of Israel.”

The dispatch, recently posted in social media, says, “I raise my eyes to the sky and call out with you ‘Shma Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one. The Lord God of Israel, make our way successful. … We’re going to war for your people Israel against an enemy that defames you.”