Daily Israel Report

Hesder Student Saves Soldiers From Hizbullah Abduction

IDF paratrooper David Markowitz, a student of the Hesder yeshiva in Mitzpeh Ramon, became a national hero for a day on Tuesday when he killed four Hizbullah terrorists with one gun burst.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 11/23/2005, 8:04 PM / Last Update: 11/23/2005, 2:21 PM

photo courtesy of IDF Spokesman: the thwarting of an abduction
Markowitz, who will be 21 next week, has been in the army for only eight months. On Monday night, during the furious Hizbullah attack against northern Israeli targets, he and the soldiers in his unit prevented a planned abduction of an Israeli soldier.
He was the first to notice a band of Hizbullah terrorists that had crossed Israel's Lebanese border on jeeps and motorbikes - and shot them to death.

In a similar attack five years ago, Hizbullah terrorists abducted three soldiers - and never notified Israel that they killed them almost immediately afterwards.

This week's incident accompanied a multi-pronged Hizbullah rocket and mortar shell attack against Israeli military and civilian targets. When he saw the terrorists arriving, Markowitz later said, "I was scared" - but he kept his cool and composure, opened fire, and shot three terrorists dead. A fourth one died of his wounds a short time afterwards.

Markowitz's commander, Lt.-Col. Yaniv Aluf, described his actions as an "amazing display of courage, discipline and composure."

In summarizing the incident, the Northern Commander said that had Markowitz not noticed the approaching danger, the incident would have ended with many casualties and "in an extremely grave manner." "With his first shots, he determined the fate of the battle," Northern Command sources said. The army is considering awarding him a certificate of honor.

A resident of the small town of Gimzo in central Israel, Markowitz serves in the army in the framework of Hesder, which literally means "arrangement." It provides for five years of alternating periods of yeshiva study and combat army service.

The Hesder yeshivot, which are widely known for their highly-motivated and skilled soldiers, have come under fire of late from army officials for their stance vis-a-vis the Disengagement plan. IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz has even gone so far as to demand that the yeshiva in Elon Moreh no longer be granted Hesder status because its Dean, Rabbi Yaakov Levanon, called upon students to refuse expulsion-related orders.

The final decision as to whether to close the yeshiva lies with Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz.

Rabbi Levanon himself said that this was not a personal issue and that he would not fight this battle: "I will leave this war for my colleagues, the other yeshiva heads... The question is when a Torah personality expresses a Torah opinion, is it right to punish him? Is it right to train people to deny their personal truth in order to 'get along better in life'? Every yeshiva head could find himself facing a question like this..."

The Hesder yeshiva heads are to meet today (Wednesday) to formulate a stance on this issue. Spokesman Rabbi David Stav said that the Union of Hesder Yeshivot "does not accept this decision by the Chief of Staff, and is trying to have the decree rescinded."

The Commander of the IDF Personnel Corps, Maj.-Gen. Elazar Stern, announced plans a few months ago to disband, to some degree, the Hesder yeshiva units. Relations between the yeshivot and the army are thus not at their zenith.

In the meanwhile, the fact that David Markowitz is a Hesder yeshiva student was all but buried in the press reports - despite the prominent role that Hesder yeshivot have played in recent news.

Army Radio interviewer Razi Barkai asked Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz this morning whether he does not feel "discomfited" by the fact that "a soldier" was so highly praised for simply "doing his job." Mofaz said he does not feel that way, that the soldier deserves to be praised, and that the army publicizes the details of failures as well as successes.