Paratroops OC’s views over hesder spark dismissal calls

Several yeshivas reportedly considering canceling enlistment in brigade after Haliva said he hates the hesder yeshiva military track.

idf paratroopers 224.88 (photo credit: IDF)
idf paratroopers 224.88
(photo credit: IDF)
Calls are mounting for disciplinary action to be taken against Paratroopers Brigade commander Col. Aharon Haliva, who reportedly said that he hates the hesder yeshiva military track, under which soldiers do only 16 months of active military service.
Several yeshivas are reportedly considering canceling their students’ planned enlistment in the Paratroopers Brigade after Haliva, who previously served as commander of the IDF’s Officer Training School, known as Bahad 1, told a group of soldiers that he cannot stand the hesder program.
Hesder, an arrangement launched decades ago to allow religious soldiers to combine Torah studies with military service, today encompasses about 6,000 soldier-students and about 40 yeshivot. It is a five-year program that sandwiches military service between terms of yeshiva studies before and after.
“I hate and cannot stand this track,” Haliva reportedly said during a meeting with soldiers from the brigade’s 890th Battalion, explaining that his main problem was with the shorter service.
“I would rather take someone not as good to become an officer and who will stay on for three or four different positions than a soldier from the hesder track who will leave after one job. It just doesn’t pay.”
A number of religious politicians called on Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.- Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi to take immediate disciplinary action against Haliva. MK Zevulun Orlev from Habayit Hayehudi told the press that Haliva needed to be fired from his current position and prevented from serving in command posts.
Indeed, Ashkenazi distanced himself from Haliva’s remarks during a lecture at a hesder yeshiva in Modi’in on Sunday.
“Yeshiva students come to the IDF with their faith and desire to contribute,” Ashkenazi said. “They have long ago become a strong force within the IDF command.”
Rabbi Ya’acov Medan, one of the heads of the Har Etzion hesder yeshiva in Alon Shvut, where students also can join the paratroopers, displayed a certain degree of “empathy” to Haliva, but stressed that the officer’s hostility could do no good.
“Haliva’s claims pertained to budgetary concerns. It’s true that to train a hesder student costs more. He also noted the manpower shortage in the IDF infantry, and to a certain degree you can understand [his sentiment],” he said on Sunday.
“At the same time, his statements expressed hostility,” Medan continued. “We are trying to do the impossible, to bridge between two highly important missions – establishing the Zionist- Orthodox world of Torah, that can bridge between the different sectors in Israel, alongside the need to serve in the military. We are doing so in the best way we know, and the hardships on both sides are real.
“With all the affection for and empathy I have with Haliva, alongside the true pain his statements expressed was a lot of hostility, and that cannot lead to any good place, since the yeshivot and students do their best to give what they can in the framework of their military service. They want to volunteer to the best units, and not feel alienation or hostility,” Medan stressed.
Despite his criticism of Haliva, Medan said the top officer did not need to be punished. Medan said it was too soon to know if Har Etzion students who were accepted to the paratroopers had relinquished their spot in that unit, following Haliva’s remarks.
“There is a lot of encouragement from the yeshiva to join the paratroopers, we also encourage to become commanders and officers,” he noted. “We hope that Haliva’s statements, with all their hostility, won’t diminish our students’ motivation to serve in the paratroopers.”