Israel Defense Forces intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi told a parlor meeting on Tuesday night that he was more worried about the cohesion of Israeli society and the risk that it could diminish over the coming decade than he was about terror threats.
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Halevi was speaking at an event on behalf of Kehilat Yonatan, a Reform congregation in Hod Sharon named in memory of Yonatan Boyden, who fell in southern Lebanon in 1993. Halevi, who had been Boyden’s commander in the Orev company in the Paratroops Brigade, had been invited by Yonatan’s father, Rabbi Michael Boyden, who is the congregation’s rabbi.
Boyden, a native of London, is a past president of the Israel Council of Progressive Rabbis and served as the director of its rabbinical court for conversions.
At the outset Halevi said he was not planning to speak about military intelligence but about values. “I am a member of the IDF soldiers’ community,” Halevi said. “It’s a community that doesn’t permit me to be involved with other communities. Perhaps someday, I don’t know. I don’t belong to any congregation. I don’t have time right now. But the ideas, both universal and national, that I know that Mickey [Boyden] supports I embrace very, very much.”
At that point Halevi began to speak about the series of terror attacks that had taken place only hours before the event. “I said that I won’t talk about intelligence, but I can tell you what ought to bother us most about the State of Israel,” he said. “We can be very bothered by the fact that there were several attacks today, some of the serious. Of course it’s very, very disturbing. But we’ve been through some very, very difficult periods and it doesn’t look like it will end, and apparently we will know how to cope with this well going forward, even when bad events happen.”
Halevi added in the long term, there were issues that worried him more than terror attacks. “I’m much more concerned by the extent to which we are really one society,” he said. “How cohesive Israeli society is today and if it will still be this way in 10 years. If the situation, I hope, gets better, perhaps we’ll feel less of a need for this togetherness.”
While he did not say so specifically, it could be understood from his remarks that he was referring particularly to issues relating to democracy and human rights. “If there’s a place that’s trying to broaden the common denominator and not disqualify anyone for any reason, but to accept everyone as he is, I’m prepared to be there,” he said.
“In my small place today in the IDF we are really trying hard to bring everyone possible in the IDF,” he said. “We are making great efforts in this regard. I think that in the State of Israel the IDF, which is the people’s army, is a force, a force for many years to come. And I hope that we are succeeding in educating our soldiers to be more tolerant and better accept the other.”