Why is the Knesset Debating IDF Religiosity?

Perplexed MK Yogev reminds Knesset 'enemy is Hamas, not religious soldiers' as Jewish 'radicalization' in IDF placed on the docket.

Hezki Baruch, Ari Yashar ,

IDF soldier prays near Gaza
IDF soldier prays near Gaza
Mendy Hechtman/Flash 90

The topic of Jewish religiosity in the IDF came up during Operation Protective Edge amid a media firestorm over religious call-up messages - now, the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee is debating what some have dubbed "religionization" (in Hebrew: "hadata") in the IDF.

In an open discussion held by the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee's Subcommittee for Personnel in the IDF on Monday, the Knesset looked into the phenomenon that saw numerous IDF units visiting the Kotel (Western Wall) and other Jewish sites during the operation. The Knesset session was surprisingly framed as a talk about "religious radicalization."

"The enemies are Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, and not religious soldiers in the IDF," MK Moti Yogev (Jewish Home) reminded participants in the meeting. "This discussion doesn't need to take place in the Israeli Knesset and doesn't need to preoccupy army officials and waste their time."

Yogev added "I hope that there will be more religious people who draw strength from the Kotel and Jerusalem and will visit the Kotel many more times."

One of the topics to be raised in the discussion was the message sent by Givati Brigade Commander Col. Ofer Winter to his troops at the start of the operation, in which he wrote the brigade was going out against "the terrorist Gazan enemy that curses, reviles and insults the G-d of the campaigns of Israel."

The invocation of G-d made a stir in the media, and led Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (Likud) to criticize Winter, noting not all IDF soldiers are religious, or even Jewish.

Many have argued that regardless of the religious identity of individual soldiers, the IDF, as the army of Israel which defines itself as the Jewish state, exists first and foremost to defend the Jewish state and Jewish values.

Another incident to be discussed is the visit by soldiers of Golani's hard-hit 51st Battalion to the Kotel to say the hagomel blessing, a blessing recited after safely emerging from a situation of danger.

The brigade paid a heavy price in the operation, with thirteen Golani warriors killed on July 20 in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza; MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud) blamed Israel's "misplaced pity" as being responsible for the deaths, since the IDF warned residents it would enter the area, giving Hamas ample time to prepare its lethal "welcome."




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