The IDF marked this week Reservists’ Appreciation Week, intended to recognize reservists (called “miluimnikim” in Hebrew) for their contributions to Israel's security over the years.
In Israel, reserve service is done after a person's regular army service. The IDF may call up men for reserve service of up to one month annually, officers for even longer, until the age of 43 to 45 or to active duty immediately in times of crisis.
In most cases, the reserve duty is carried out in the same unit as the regular service. As many soldiers who have served together in active service continue to meet in reserve duty for years after their discharge, the reserve duty has become a strong male bonding experience in Israeli society. In fact, reserve duty is considered so special that quite a few reservists continue to volunteer for duty even after the age of 45.
On the other hand, reserve duty is also a great sacrifice for Israeli men and their families. University students miss a month of lectures, often have to sign up for make-up exams at special dates, small businesses are left hanging with wives or assistants trying to keep them going, conferences and meetings are missed. Wives are left singlehandedly coping with car pools, sick children and repairs, while children miss their fathers presence and everyone waits for the call saying whether Abba (father) will be allowed home for Shabbat.
Importance of reservists discussed at special Knesset meeting
As part of Reservists’ Appreciation Week, a special day took place in the Knesset on Tuesday, which included plenum discussions as well as special event in the Knesset auditorium which was attended by reserve soldiers and officers from various military units.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said during the event, “Those who respond to the reserve call are also responding to the call of their conscience. This faithful group has proven over and over again that it can be counted on. The reserves is a unique phenomenon that we should not be taking for granted.
“At a time when performing reserves duty has ago long ceased being a common thing, the reservist does not want to feel like a ‘national sucker,’” continued Rivlin. “When such a feeling exists, it is hard to ask someone to drop everything and endanger his life. It is no secret that feelings of deprivation still accompany most reserve calls.”
In light of the above, said Rivlin, “it is not enough to pat the reservists on the shoulder; on this day we must examine how to practically reward them. Financial grants for reservists and issuing certificates are only the beginning and it could lead to a fundamental change in our attitude to this minority which fulfills a national mission. Truly appreciating them is a challenge which all of us face.”
Rivlin’s words were echoed in the Knesset’s special session in honor of Reservists’ Appreciation Week. Lt. Col.(res.) Madeleine Abuazio, said during the session that a decrease in the value of the IDF is evident among Israeli employers, some of whom do not see favorably the fact that their employees need to take time off work for reserve duty.
“I have accompanied reservists who were fired because of the reserve duty,” he said. “It does not matter how many days they were called in for, the employer has them choose between work and reserve duty. When a soldier is required to choose between being employed and his conscience, we have a serious problem.”
Abuazio noted that “Many of the reservists are self-employed business owners and the country must take responsibility for them. The laws regarding reserve duties must be enforced. We have good laws but they are not properly enforced.”
Yanai Beni, a former battalion commander in the reserves, said, “I was a battalion commander in the Second Lebanon War and my soldiers were fired by SMS. Reservists leave out the fact that they are battalion commanders in their resume, they dress in parking lots and are ashamed to come up with their uniforms to work.
“It cannot be that battalion commadners and fighters are considered second class,” added Beni. “We feel like we are in an Israeli army in an American society, where capitalism has taken over everything that was good. Despite it all, we will continue to come [for reserve duty].”
34-year reservist honored
As part of Reservists’ Appreciation Week, a special evening honoring outstanding reservist soldiers was held on Monday.
One of the soldiers who were honored was the Vice President of the Association of Hesder Yeshivas, Eliezer Deutsch. Deutsch has served in the reserves for 34 years and was even injured during training, but the injury did not prevent him from continuing to serve for many more years.
As part of his role as VP of the Association of Hesder Yeshivas, Deutsch accompanies hundreds of students during their military service. “The cooperation with the IDF, both in the hesder yeshivas as well as in the reserves, allows me to fulfill my duties and help the troops,” he said.
The 55-year-old father of six and grandfather of six added that he sees in serving in the reserves a mission, and wished to pass the following message to the younger generation:
“When young soldiers who have completed their regular service come to reserve duty for the first time, I try to support and guide them. On the one hand it strengthens them and gives them the tools to serve, and on the other hand when they see me after decades in the reserves, it encourages them to continue to serve.”
Deutsch noted that he intends to continue to report to reserve duty. “As long as they let me serve, I’ll be there,” he said.