Yossi Ashtamkar, 21, became the second Nahal Hareidi officer to receive a prize for excellence in IDF history Thursday at an officers' course graduation ceremony.
Ashtamkar, one of 14 children and a native of the hareidi community Tifrah in the Negev, was drafted into the Netzah unit of the Nahal Hareidi division in August 2012.
Since then, he was promoted to a leadership position at Bahad 1 (a training base), where he was placed in the Lahav unit officers' course. On Thursday, the course finished with distinction - and Ashtamkar received the excellence award for his service.
Nahal Hareidi has won three other prizes over the past several months. In December, the unit won the IDF Chief of Staff's prize; the unit was also awarded the IDF Department of Technology and Logistics' Award and the GOC Army Headquarters Safety Award.
The unit was also nominated for the Education Award, along with an award in Excellence in Maintaining Sector Security, issued by the Paratroop Command and Chief Infantry Officer.
The unit's success has prompted the Nahal Haredi Foundation, which was part of the establishment of the regiment and the idea to have rabbis accompany the troops during service, to work toward opening more service tracks tailor-made for haredi soldiers in elite units in the IDF. 170 soldiers were sworn in to the unit earlier this month - and the number is expected to grow.
As the hareidi draft looms in upcoming months, the work could be monumental in helping the hareidi community integrate into the IDF and society at large, supporters of the initiative claim.
Rabbi Isaac Bar-Haim, one of the rabbis who works with the Nahal Haredi Foundation, explains the reason behind the unit's overwhelming success.
"Today we are able to reach a state where the motivation of our soldiers is very high, despite the background noise from the outside," the Rabbi stressed. "This is due, among other things, to support and greater understanding among families of the soldiers, with whom we are in contact all the time. In the past we saw soldiers standing alone as they were sworn in; today many of their families are also attending the swearing-in ceremonies."