IDF Chief: Hesder Yeshivas Important to Israel's Defense

Chief of Staff Ashkenazi praises religious seminary students who serve in the Israeli army.

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi heaped praise upon the hesder yeshivas, religious seminaries who students also serve in the IDF, but refrained from criticizing the paratroopers brigade commander, who recently spoke poorly of the hesder yeshiva soldiers.

Ashkenazi said that the hesder yeshiva soldiers are "a significant layer in the IDF's wall of defense." Speaking at a ceremony inaugurating a new hesder yeshiva campus in Modi'in, Ashkenazi thanked the soldiers for their service in the name of the army and said that hesder army officers have "become a central force in the IDF chain of command."

ashkenazi - Emil Salman - December 12 2010
Emil Salman

"This is one of the most beautiful expressions of Zionism, of Judaism, of the unity of the nation," Ashkenazi said. Ashkenazi noted the moral character that yeshiva students bring to their army service, saying "Yeshiva students that enlist in the IDF come armed with faith in the righteousness of our ways."

Ashkenazi did not directly relate to the comments made by Paratroopers Brigade Commander Colonel Aharon Haliva, published in the weekend edition of the newspaper Ma'ariv. Haliva was quoted in the paper as having said that he "hates" the hesder yeshiva program.

Haliva explained that he dislikes the hesder yeshiva program because its soldiers and officers do not serve as long as other soldiers, making it difficult for the paratroopers brigade to develop its chain of command.

Unlike Ashkenazi, many rabbis and other religious public officials that participated in the ceremony harshly criticized Haliva's comments.