reservists 298.88 AJ.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Decrying the deterioration of the nation's treatment of its reservists, Acting President Dalia Itzik on Sunday praised their efforts on the battlefield, particularly in the Second Lebanon War, during a tribute ceremony at Beit Hanassi.
"On this special day, we must remember them all," said Itzik, noting the thousands of reservists who heeded the call during last summer's war. She noted that the turnout of reservists was 100 percent, "and that's not something that we can take for granted. It's not even logical. But it happened."
Addressing the crowd of reservists and dignitaries on hand for the ceremony, traditionally held on Lag Ba'omer to honor the courage, commitment, motivation and selflessness of the reserves, Defense Minister Amir Peretz paid tribute to the "anonymous heroes" deserving of every citation and commendation.
Citations were handed out to commanders of 15 IDF ground, air and sea units at the ceremony, some a mix of reserve and regular soldiers, for their roles in the Second Lebanon War.
"The State of Israel salutes the reserves of the IDF," said Itzik, noting that while the word "miluimnik" couldn't be found in the dictionary, it had nonetheless come to represent "outreach, contribution, volunteerism and ongoing activity throughout the years by citizens who have left everything, sometimes several times a year, and put their regular lives on hold while they donned a uniform and went out to do their share of reserve duty."
Speakers noted the stock-taking being done by the nation and its leaders, those who had fallen in the Second Lebanon War, and the POWS and MIAs who must be brought home - specifically Gilad Schalit, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser.
Peretz chided employers who have dismissed employees for giving too much of their time to reserve duty. The defense minister noted that a new law had been introduced to protect reserve soldiers' rights, one of the lessons learned from last summer's war.
Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said that a law must be passed to compensate reservists for losses suffered as a result of their service. He added that the IDF was still learning the lessons of the Second Lebanon War, not on a once a year basis, "but every day, especially in the battle against Palestinian terrorism."
Lt.-Col. Yigael Ben-Ari of the Artillery Support Battalion spoke of what it had been like for reservists to hear often unfounded criticism from the home front while they were under heavy fire, and the effect this had on morale.
However, Ben-Ari asserted he had confidence in both his commanders and his soldiers. "Now that we are all being introspective and taking stock, we should be more appreciative of the quality of the reservists," he said.
Alluding to the general mood of disillusionment that is pervading the country, Itzik told the reservists: 'When they say that everything is bad here, and there is no hope, I look at your faces and I see the response."