GAL HIRSCH, chairman of both the Israel Leadership Institute and Magen Party.
(photo credit: EIRAD NETZER)
In an election campaign marked by the candidacies of a number of retired IDF generals, Gal Hirsch of the Magen Party stands apart. Hirsch, who was commander of the elite Shaldag commando unit and a division commander in the 2006 Lebanon War, explains what separates him from the pack.
“Unlike the ‘generals party’, says Hirsch, referring to the Blue and White Party, “which is led by generals with little civilian experience, I have been in civilian life for more than 10 years as an employer, with extensive experience in research and development and have been active both as a social activist and in education.”
As a paratrooper and commando, Gal Hirsch led numerous secret missions beyond Israel’s borders. Yet, he says, he is proudest of his accomplishments as commandant of the IDF’s Officer Training School (Bahad 1), where he trained thousands of Israel’s officers, who, in turn, influenced the soldiers under their tutelage. Additionally, Hirsch explains, it was during his tenure as head of Bahad 1 that he carried out two major changes in the military that have influenced Israeli society. First, he merged the separate-sex officer training schools into one unit for both men and women. Second, he explains, he added an educational requirement for all officers requiring them to receive a basic education in Jewish tradition and history.
“They cannot get their ranks until they understand the traditions of Israel, Judaism and knowledge of the land,” says Hirsch.
The name of Hirsch’s party is Magen, which is Hebrew for “shield” or “defense.” Hirsch explains that the Magen party will “defend the personal security of Israel’s citizens, the country’s social fabric, and will protect minority groups, including aging Holocaust survivors, new immigrants, haredim and members of other minority groups who want to integrate into Israeli society.”
Hirsch categorizes Magen as a moderate right-wing party and says, “The era of territorial withdrawals has ended.” He stresses the importance of retaining the West Bank, because, he says, “any place that we abandon will be occupied by the Iranians. This is what happened in Lebanon and is happening in Syria.” Despite the party’s right-wing moniker, Hirsch says that “while we may be a right-wing party in terms of foreign affairs and security, we are left-wing in our social and economic positions.”
Hirsch has made concrete plans to attract minority groups to his party, by adding them to the Magen list in the elections.
For example, Lt.-Col. (res.) Ream Falah, a Bedouin, is No. 4 on the Magen list for the Knesset. Says Hirsch, “This shows how serious we are about integrating minorities.” The party also has three Haredi members on its Knesset list, as well as immigrants and descendants of immigrants from Russia and Ethiopia.
In addition to his business qualifications, Hirsch has for the past 10 years headed the Israel Leadership Institute in Sderot, which trains and mentors young leaders in areas of social activism. He proudly recounts how graduates of the Institute have been active in increasing access for the disabled, fighting corruption in local government, and providing assistance for women who have been sexually assaulted.
When it comes to issues of religion and state, Hirsch understands the importance of maintaining respect for Jewish tradition.
“Just as I did in officers’ school, when I established a Jewish studies requirement as a condition for certification, we need to make certain that the State of Israel remains connected to Jewish tradition. At the same time, we need to ensure religious freedom so that everyone can live according to his own wishes and beliefs.” Hirsch says that while he is in favor of providing public transportation on Saturdays in secular areas, religious sensitivities need to be respected in areas that contain a higher population of religious people.
“We can live together,” he says.
Gal Hirsch is confident of his abilities.
“The entire package that I bring – as a security expert with military experience, and my extensive economic, societal and educational background – gives me excellent tools to represent the citizens of Israel in the Knesset. The Magen Party will be the social commando of the citizens of Israel in the Knesset.”
This article was written in cooperation with the Israel Leadership Institute.
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