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Ashkenazi Lauds Hesder as Paratroops OC Retracts Sharp Words

'On behalf of an entire army, I want to say thank you – I salute you,' Chief of Staff says of religious-Zionist soldiers in Hesder yeshivas.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 12/12/2010, 10:47 PM / Last Update: 12/12/2010, 10:52 PM

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IDF Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi, had warm words Sunday for the 'Hesder' yeshiva soldiers, whose mandatory service in the army is combined with periods of yeshiva study and therefore is a five year commitment rather than the regular three year one, although their active service during this period is less than three years..

"On behalf of an entire army, I want to say 'thank you' – I salute you,” Ashkenazi said to Hesder soldiers at a cornerstone-laying ceremony for the permanent home of the Hesder yeshiva at Modi'in, northwest of Jerusalem.

Ashkenazi told his audience about a student from the Modi'in yeshiva, Second-Lt. Yo'ad Kaplan, who was wounded in the Cast Lead campaign but insisted on being allowed to return to active service and to enroll in the Officers' Course.

"Less than a year ago I had the privilege of decorating Yo'ad with the Platoon Commander pin, because his commanders at Officers' School decided that he was worthy of the Excellent Soldier Award in the Ground Forces Officers' Course,” Ashkenazi said. “For me, this event drove home in a personal way the power of the Hesder yeshivas.”

Hesder yeshiva soldiers are “a meaningful part of the IDF's command backbone,” Israel's top military commander said.

The Chief of Staff's warm words were considered to be a response to criticism of the special track by  Paratrooper's Brigade commander, Col, Aharon Haliva several days ago.  As an immediate result of the wide publication of his views, there were calls for his dismissal and hundreds of hesder students said they would change plans for volunteering in the corps where he had suggested they should not be advanced. The commander retracted his words Monday night in a phonecall to Rabbi Druckman, one of the senior heads of the Hesder Yeshivas, and praised the soldiers for their bravery and committment,