Jerusalem – As acts of violence against ultra-Orthodox soldiers proliferate, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin toured the Binyamin Regional Brigade’s headquarters and met with soldiers from the Netzach Yehuda battalion (Nahal Haredi), a battalion comprised exclusively of ultra-orthodox soldiers.
The president was given an overview of the situation in the area and the activity of the battalion in the part of the Binyamin region in which it operates. Rivlin was accompanied by the head of the Planning, Administration and Personnel division, Brig. Gen. Eran Shani, head of the Kfir Brigade Col. Zion Ratzon, the commander of the Netzach Yehuda battalion Lt. Col. Itamar Deshel and the chairman of the Nahal Haredi Foundation Aharon Malach. The president was given a review on the battaion’s structure and its operative targets as well as on the unique personnel makeup of the battalion.
Later, Rivlin met with soldiers from the unit who told him about the unique social challenges they encounter since they joined the military. Some 3,000 ultra-Orthodox soldiers joined the IDF over the past year and recently a haredi platoon was also opened in the Paratroopers Brigade. An additional haredi platoon exists in the Givati infantry brigade.
The president thanked the soldiers and their commanders for the visit and expressed his impressions that the battalion is in a high state of combat readiness. The battalion, he said, has improved since its establishment several years ago and has become the tip of the arrow in combatting terrorism in the West Bank.
“I was told that one of the soldiers said upon his release that in the yeshiva he learned how to be a Jew and in the battalion he learmed how to be a human being,” Rivlin said, adding: “I think you can learn both in the army and in the yeshiva how to be a Jew as well as how to be a human being. Learning Torah is a value in our Jewish existence and so should be the need to ensure our security. These are not contradictory values, they are complementary.”
“I have been following the Netzach Yehuda ballation for quite a few years, sometimes from afar and sometimes from up close. I know some of you have uneasy life stories. There are difficulties with your families, your close environment, and despite all of this you recruited and you are determined to defend your country,” the president said.
He added: “You are the finest among our sons, you protect us in the front and we need to protect you back at home. You, the soldiers of Netzach Yehuda, keep awake at nights in ambushes and checkpoints, fight terrorists and other enemies, and it is inconceivable that when you return to your home neighborhoods someone will dare raise their hand against you.
It cannot be that in the State of Israel an IDF soldier will go to a synagogue to pray and will be attacked. It must not happen. We should not generalize and it is clear to me that the vast majority of the ultra-Orthodox public condemns such violence, but still those who raise a hand against IDF soldiers, those who attack soldiers for being soldiers – they will be punished to the full extent of the law. We will not return to our daily lives when you and other soldiers are being attacked.”
Aharon Malach, CEO of Nahal Haredi Foundation, an NGO accompanying haredi soldiers during their service, said after Rivlin’s visit: “We thank his honor the president for his visit to the battalion.
We very much appreciate his warm conduct with the ultra-Orthodox soldiers and his encouragement – and these become even more important during these days when extremists from the margins of haredi society attack soldiers. The president’s message – on integration coming from dialogue – and his consistent stand on this issue – are also important.
As the organization that has been accompanying haredi soldiers for more than 15 years we know how important it is and we know that only cooperation coming from understanding between the different tribes comprising the mosaic of Israeli society can bring an optimal integration of the ultra-Orthodox community within the ranks of the IDF.”