A special event took place on Wednesday to mark the 35th anniversary of the Or Etzion Hesder Yeshiva.
The evening’s special guest was IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, who came to greet the thousands of alumni and students who have studied at the yeshiva over the years. Gantz, for whom this was the first visit to a hesder yeshiva since taking office, expressed his support for the hesder program praised the head of Yeshiva Or Etzion, Rabbi Chaim Druckman.
Gantz, who studied in a military academy in his youth, said: “I see the same strength and values also in the IDF, and I see them in the determination of IDF commanders and fighters, especially in the yeshiva students who join elite units regular and the reserve forces. Their sense of mission is second to none.”
Gantz also referred to the recent attacks against Judea and Samaria Division Commander Brigadier General Nitzan Alon, saying: “In recent weeks we have witnessed a radical minority’s attack against the commander of the Judea and Samaria Division, Brigadier General Nitzan Alon. Brig. Gen. Alon is an officer with many rights who has devoted and dedicated his life to Israel’s security and its citizens and will continue to do so in the future.
“I’m against any and all accusations and harassment directed at him,” Gantz continued. “The attempt to undermine the authority of a senior commander in the IDF is out of the question and I expect you to continue to back the IDF commanders and condemn such acts and statements.”
Alon has come under fire lately, after he reportedly distributed a letter to commanders in his division in which he asked them to investigate soldiers who are residents of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. The reason for the request, according to Alon, is a concern that these soldiers may leak information regarding future evacuation of outpost communities.
“As commanders we must thoroughly check and characterize the backgrounds of our soldiers,” Alon wrote in the letter. “We have to interview those soldiers who have the potential to harm national security and give them roles in which they are not exposed to sensitive information.”
After the report on the letter, a protest took place Nitzan’s home. Participants of the protest said the general was unfairly discriminating against soldiers based on the location their hometown.
Gantz concluded his remarks by praising the head of the Or Etzion Yeshiva, Rabbi Chaim Druckman.
“This evening is a celebration in honor of the yeshiva but also in honor of a special and important man, whose name became synonymous with the positive sense of the word yeshiva idea and its implementation - Rabbi Chaim Druckman.”
Turning to the Rabbi, Gantz said, “Your life story is a great example of the return of Israel to its land: from your childhood in Poland, through your being saved from the Nazis and coming to Israel before reaching the age of mitzvot, to the establishment of a life work which has spread out over many decades.
“I will use this opportunity to thank you on behalf of the IDF and Israeli society,” concluded Gantz.
The event marking Or Etzion’s 35th anniversary was dedicated to its graduates. To that end, a special disc was 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.