IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz will make his first visit in office to a Hesder yeshiva on Wednesday as part of an event marking the 35th anniversary of the Or Etzion yeshiva, headed by Rabbi Chaim Druckman.
During the visit, Gantz will greet the thousands of alumni and students who have studied at the Or Etzion yeshiva.
This is Gantz’s first visit since taking office to a Hesder yeshiva and it will take place in light of recent differences and tensions that have risen between the military and the yeshivot.
The tensions arose several months ago, when former paratrooper brigade commander Col. Aaron Haliva criticized the special track taken by yeshiva students, who combine mandatory army service with periods of yeshiva study, and whose commitment therefore is for five years rather than the regular three years, although their active service during this period is less than three years.
Haliva had hinted that Hesder students should not be advanced, a statement which was met with harsh criticism. In response to Haliva’s comments, previous Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi praised the Hesder students and said they are “a meaningful part of the IDF's command backbone.” Haliva himself later retracted his comments.
The event marking Or Etzion’s 35th anniversary is dedicated to its graduates, who are expected to arrive in droves to celebrate the occasion. To that end, a special disc has been made for them which includes the some of the yeshiva’s greatest moments. The disc includes special songs performed by some of the graduates along with Rabbi Druckman, who participated in the recordings.
The Or Etzion yeshiva was established in 1977 by Rabbi Druckman. The yeshiva is part of the Bnei Akiva group of yeshivas, which are located throughout Israel and which educate tens of thousands of students about the Torah and about love for the State. Today, Or Etzion has over 250 students.