עופר וינטר
עופר וינטרצילום: Flash90

Nurit Greengeris a writer and journalist who focuses on humanitarian issues.

(JNS) I have never met Brig.-Gen. Ofer Winter. However, since the IDF command released him from duty, his presence has been heavy in commentary and the news. It is speaking to those of us who want to see Israel victorious.

Winter’s three decades of service have been exceptional and the IDF’s pretexts for his dismissal are an embarrassment..

Winter states that he received the legacy of battle from his father David (Dotsu), who during the 1973 Yom Kippur War was a soldier in the Armored Corps’ 113th Battalion. For 19 consecutive days, he fought on both sides of the Suez Canal.

Winter was appointed commander of the Givati Brigade on Aug. 22, 2013. Among other activities, he led the brigade in Operation Protective Edge (Tzuk Eitan).

Ofer Winter/IDF

At the beginning of the operation, on July 9, 2014, Winter issued a “battle commander’s page”—a reinforcement to his soldiers’ letters sent while they were assembled on Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip.

“We will do everything to destroy the enemy, we will not return without carrying it out,” Winter wrote.

In addition to messages that emphasized compliance with the mission and the defense of the people and the homeland, Winter stated:

History has chosen us to be at the forefront of the fight against the “Azati” terrorist enemy who insults and blasphemes the God of Israel’s battles. I raise my eyes to the heavens and call along with you “Hear Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Oh Lord, the God of Israel, please make our way successful as we go and stand to fight for your people Israel against the enemy who hates your name.

(This was a paraphrase of the biblical description of David's words facing Goliath, ed.)

In May 2024, against the background of the Swords of Iron War, IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant conducted the new IDF appointments round. After Winter did not advance in it, Gallant and Halevi agreed that Winter would end his IDF service.

Ministers and Knesset members in the coalition and opposition, including Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, along with MKs Avigdor Lieberman and Gideon Sa’ar, criticized the decision.

For a while, Winter kept silent. During the first week of June 2024, however, Winter delivered a speech that underlined the IDF’s great loss in letting such an officer go.

Without Winter’s Zionist and patriotic views, and his exceptional command ability, all of which guide Winter more than the knitted skullcap the observant Jew wears, he could have been the IDF chief of staff and marched the IDF and Israel to victory.

Excerpts from Winter’s recent speech:

“I personally know most of the commanders at the field level. They do holy work, they are lions. They do their best with what Israel has and do not whine and tell me, ‘I don’t have it’, ‘I lack it’, ‘If only I had a little more ammunition’, ‘If I had legitimacy,’ etc.”

“The truth is that today Israel has much more than the fighters of the 1948 Independence War, and yet Israel won [that war].

“Israel has much more than it had in the 1967 Six-Day War and much more than in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and in those wars, Israel won as well.

“Everything is in the mind and spirit.

“The role of the IDF is to overwhelm the enemy, bring him to his knees and let him scream ‘enough,’ and without excuses and stories.

“The enemy interprets Israel’s desire for peace as weakness. The role of the IDF is to turn the people of Israel into a lion.”

That was Winter’s approach throughout his years of service.

“Although Israel really wants peace, the problem in the Middle East is that there is no choice but to understand that in order to make peace with someone, you must be a lion. If you are not a lion they will just eat you.

“We don’t whine, we win with what we have. ‘We lack ammunition,’ ‘We have no legitimacy’ is all confusion of the mind. Win with what you have.

“The most amazing thing: Who is this enemy anyway? Some tattered Arabs who call themselves Hamas. And we tell ourselves it is difficult? I’m not underestimating, but it can be done very quickly. We take off our gloves, we fight properly.

“In the 1967 Six-Day War, the IDF undid all the Arab armies that attacked Israel in six days. What explanations or excuses did Israel have then? The war was against the Arab countries’ armies, not against Hamas brats. With all due respect and the threat, we are the strongest army in the Middle East because of our spirit.

“Today there is no unit in the IDF that goes out to fight without shouting to the heavens. And the consolation? Your eyes can see, the truth ends up winning.”

This makes it doubly clear why Winter’s rivals removed him from the IDF: They lack his abilities and views.

Other IDF officers speak in Winter’s spirit, but we had yet to hear such strong words. That voice cannot be silenced anymore. It will break through and win. In Gaza, Winter would have led the IDF to absolute victory.

Chills, tears and excitement arise when Winter speaks like a true Jewish leader—a warrior, a lion. His words are like cold water for a tired soul, like life-sustaining dew.

The people of Israel were surprised to hear that the chief of staff decided to terminate Winter’s service. It seemed like an insult. But Winter has started to speak publicly. This is certainly not the end of the story for him.