Gantz, Kohavi join IDF haredi combat soldiers' Hanukkah candle-lighting

The candle-lighting, attended by the defense minister and IDF chief of staff, took place at the haredi battalion's base near the West Bank settlement of Beit El.

 The 97th Netzah Yehuda Battalion pose for a picture with Defense Minister Benny Gantz and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi (photo credit: NETZAH YEHUDA FOUNDATION)
The 97th Netzah Yehuda Battalion pose for a picture with Defense Minister Benny Gantz and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi
(photo credit: NETZAH YEHUDA FOUNDATION)

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi and Defense Minister Benny Gantz joined the haredi 97th Netzah Yehuda Battalion's Hanukkah candle-lighting on Wednesday.

The 97th Netzah Yehuda Battalion is the IDF's haredi-only combat battalion, allowing for haredi soldiers to serve their country as combat soldiers in a halachic environment fitting to their religious beliefs.

The candle-lighting, attended by Gantz, Kohavi and several IDF generals, took place at the haredi battalion's base near the West Bank settlement of Beit El. The battalion mainly operates within the West Bank.

Rabbi of the Netzah Yehuda Foundation David Fuchs, who is one of the founders of the haredi battalion, then called Nahal Haredi, addressed the soldiers and guests at the candle-lighting.

In the spirit of Hannukah, rabbi Fuchs praised the haredi combat soldiers, referring to them as "our contemporary Maccabees."

"The Netzah Yehuda Battalion operates with excellence," rabbi Fuchs said.  "They are our contemporary Maccabees, combining a fighting spirit with the unique atmosphere that prevails here among us," he added.

The 97th Netzah Yehuda Battalion's Hanukkah candle-lighting (credit: NETZAH YEHUDA FOUNDATION)The 97th Netzah Yehuda Battalion's Hanukkah candle-lighting (credit: NETZAH YEHUDA FOUNDATION)

The Netzah Yehuda Foundation is an NGO that works along with the IDF and the Defense Ministry to encourage and prepare haredim to enlist in the IDF as combat soldiers.

In their speeches, Gantz and Kohavi both commended the battalion, expressing their pride in haredim who choose to serve in the IDF, despite the risks involved.

Due to the controversial nature of haredim serving in the IDF, some of those who choose to serve face estrangement from their families.

Defense Minister Gantz agreed with rabbi Fuchs' labeling of the haredi battalion as Maccabees, adding that "the combination of their strength and spirit is what empowers Am Yisrael throughout all the generations to stand strong against those who rise against us and to triumph."

In 2019, five Netzah Yehuda soldiers were indicted for severely beating two Palestinian detainees in handcuffs.