Outstanding reservists honored by Ya’alon, Peres

Defense minister: Security forces dealing with "almost unprecedented budget cuts" and "storm winds" blowing from Damascus to Cairo.

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August 6, 2013 02:15
4 minute read.
PRESIDENT SHIMON PERES presents an award for excellence to battalion commander Yo’av Gal

Peres honors outstanding reservists 370. (photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)

 
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Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, speaking at the annual awards ceremony for outstanding units of reservists, said the prize is being allocated at a time of change both at home and beyond Israel’s borders.

“It is a period in which security forces are dealing with almost unprecedented budget cuts,” he said, leading to a reduction in training and training units.

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“We’re doing this with a heavy heart, but also with responsibility and sound judgment, while soberly observing what is taking place around us,” Ya’alon said.

He referred to “the storm winds and changes blowing today from Damascus to Cairo, from Beirut to Gaza. We’ll do whatever we can, whatever is possible and beyond, to decrease the harm to the fitness and readiness of the units and to the force buildup.”

Ya’alon said a quality, battle-ready and deterring reserve force will be needed in any situation and battle, “near or far,” adding that Israel had to find a balance between its security needs and a complex economic reality.

The IDF has changed since the Yom Kippur war of 1973, he said, but some basic facts remained unchanged. Then as now, the enemy on the other side of the border “is waiting for the time that we won’t be standing guard. The victory of IDF combat soldiers in that war, and most of them reserve soldiers, brought most of our enemies to the realization that they can’t defeat us with tanks and planes, and they turned mainly to the path of terrorism, rockets, and missiles, Ya’alon said.

Reserve soldiers are the cultural heroes of Israel, the defense minister added.



Meanwhile, at a private ceremony prior to annual one for reservists, Avraham Goldenberg, who is now 75, was given an award that was due him way back in 1959.

The award was presented by Ya’alon and Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, along with a citation by President Shimon Peres.

Fifty-four years ago Goldenberg was supposed to receive an outstanding service award together with his buddies from Southern Command.

But on the night of the awards ceremony, when president Yitzhak Ben-Zvi was making the presentation, Goldenberg was escorting the entourage of prime minister David Ben-Gurion to Sde Boker, and it never occurred to him to ask for the decoration that others in the unit had received, especially since 1959 was also the year of his discharge from the IDF, and he was more inclined to think about his future than his past.

Coincidentally, Gantz was born in the year that Goldenberg was initially due to receive his award.

“Better late than never” said Goldenberg’s brother, who was part of the small group of relatives who attended.

“It carries more weight when I say it,” said Peres.

Goldenberg related some of his experiences as a soldier in the southern part of the country which was barely developed at the time, and soldiers had to escort civilian buses until 1 a.m.

“We worked around the clock without let-up,” said Goldenberg.

He listed commanders and officers whom he had driven, among them Haim Laskov, Chaim Herzog, Yekutiel Adam and Avraham Biberman, who were all familiar to Peres, Ya’alon, Gantz and members of the IDF General Staff who were also present.

“You’ve awakened nostalgic memories for us,” Peres told him, saying that he was pleased to be able to stand in for Ben-Zvi, who was a very modest man.

Unlike the battery of security personnel who take care of the president’s safety today, Ben-Zvi was protected by only two policemen. One day one of them was absent, said Peres, and when Ben-Zvi asked where he was, the other policeman explained that the second guard had the flu and couldn’t come to work.

“Where’s his gun?” asked Ben Zvi.

“Here,” replied the lone security officer.

“Then give to me and I’ll take over his duties,” said Israel’s second president.

At the main ceremony honoring 15 units of reservists, whose total of 200 members included MK Eitan Cabel – who to the best of his knowledge is the only MK doing reserve duty in the IDF – Peres, Ya’alon and Gantz all praised the selflessness, volunteerism and commitment to the nation’s security of reservists whose outstanding service was being recognized and honored for the ninth consecutive year.

“Service in the army is not a burden,” said Peres. “It is a duty that should be perceived as a privilege.”

He said that he had a strong feeling that many people within the country were now anxious to engage in the kind of dialogue that would contribute to greater understanding and a collective desire to observe the laws of the land.

Israel has always lacked in manpower and resources he said, “and the enemies surrounding us are not small in number.”

Therefore, in his opinion “everyone who is capable of serving in the army should serve in the army.” The shared burden should fall on as wide a shoulder as possible, he said.

Gantz said that he believes that most of Israel understands the importance of the IDF and of the reservists who are part of it.

“You are people who never tire of giving,” he said.

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