Col. Yonatan Berensky carries out an unlikely combination of two very different jobs in the IDF. Job number one is Commander of the reserve Negev Regiment. Job number two is Head of Staff of the Military Rabbinate.
In an interview for IDF magazine BaMachaneh, Berensky says, “these are the two most different jobs imaginable” but adds that they complement each other. As Head of Staff, he says, he learns a lot about the correct way of managing human resources, and as Regiment Commander he develops his operational skills.
The Negev Regiment under Berensky was called up in Operation Cast Lead and took an active part in the fighting. A battalion from the regiment joined a non-reserve armor regiment in central Gaza, along the Netzarim Corridor. Berensky says that he was moved by the reservists’ motivation upon being called up. “I was filled with pride just to see them coming south, getting off the buses and hugging. I felt that everyone is together, that they are all brothers. Two battalions came immediately after a [previous] operational reserve stint, yet they showed up in a good mood and did the job in the best possible way,” he adds.
One of the battalions under Berensky received the President’s Excellent Battalion Award this year for its action in Gaza.
It was the Israeli nation’s unity that gave the troops the most strength, Berensky says. “I told the soldiers: when the Nation of Israel knows what it wants, everyone toes the line. We see now that the Israeli home front is not as weak as people said it was. The most important thing is our belief in the rightness of our path.”
Berensky, who enlisted in 1989, served at one point as the commander of the Nachal Hareidi Battalion. He was reluctant to take the job at first, he recalls, because he thought the battalion was not sufficiently professional. But he changed his mind later. Now he says that the experience was “the most amazing position I held in the army.” The Nachal Hareidi, he says, has become a leading, professional fighting force.
In 2007, Brig.-Gen. Avichai Rontsky, the IDF’s Chief Rabbi, asked to appoint him to his current position in the Rabbinate, and Chief of Staff, Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi agreed.
While he spends more days in the Rabbinate than he does as Commander of Negev Regiment, he says that the latter job is the more important one for him. He does not expect his next assignment to be in the Rabbinate but rather sees himself continuing to serve in field command roles.