Hajian receives award from Chief of Staff Eizenkot
Hajian receives award from Chief of Staff EizenkotIDF Spokesman

"Tonight's the night," the Menashe Brigade Commander announced in a brief phone call to Master Sergeant Assaf (Assi) Hajian, the director of engineering responsible for demolishing terrorist homes in Judea and Samaria.

Within a few moments Maj. Hajian, who was at a family event, was at the entrance to the village of Jalameh ready for his mission: Demolition of the house where the terrorist who murdered Rabbi Raziel Shevach last January was hiding. Rabbi Shevach was murdered in a shooting attack last month near Havat Gilad in Samaria. The terrorists fired at Rabbi Shevach's vehicle at close range and then fled the scene.

"After three weeks of high alert, endless entrances and exits in Jenin, and demolishing the house - we caught him," recalls Hajian.

This is by no means the first time Hajian has dropped everything and arrived at the tensest flashpoints. For the past 17 years he's served in the IDF, where he took part in combat and other operations. He received six awards for his exceptional work from various brigade commanders, from the Chief of Staff, and from former Central Command chief Major General Roni Numa. This week, the 35-year-old father of three from Moshav Farsun made another significant achievement: Receiving the IDF Chief of Staff's medal.

Hajian and family; Credit: IDF Spokesman

Master Sergeant Hajian began military service as a parachutist but within a short time, he realized that Engineering Battalion 601 was the place for him: "I was in the mechanical engineering equipment company, I connected to the place and the people really quickly, so I signed up for regular army.

"I was taken to Lebanon in 2006," recalls Hajian, during his service as engineering director of the 417th Brigade. "It was very difficult to internalize that we were in a war, but we quickly gained our bearings and we did what was necessary, and we destroyed Hezbollah's terrorist infrastructure."

In 2009 he was released from the army. No sooner did he fold his uniform and return it to the closet was he called by his commander to return: "He came to see me. We sat together and he explained to me about the situation in the brigade and stressed that they needed me there. After consultations with my wife we decided to go for it. I feel this was the right choice."

Dust, mud, the smell of building materials in the air, and Red Alert sirens were an integral part of service in Division 162, where Hajian served during Operation Protective Edge. "We were in the midst of preparations for an entry anyway when the operation first began. We were ready."

Currently, Hajian serves as director of engineering work in the Judea and Samaria region and is responsible for the Ephraim, Menashe, and Shomron brigades. "In my time here, the Arab terror wave of 2015-6 began," he notes, referring to what has become known as the "Third Intifada" or the "Knife Intifada": "Every incident requires us to reach the terrorist's home and perform an engineering mapping in order to get a picture of the situation and decide on how to continue the work."

Credit: IDF Spokesman

"It's very dynamic and special work," he explains. "I see the impact close up, and that makes it worthwhile. I understand that what I'm doing can prevent a potential attack tomorrow." This is a job that requires constant readiness: "I can at one moment be at Friday night kiddush with the family, and the next moment I'm already wearing a vest and helmet in Jenin."

The Judea and Samaria theatre is not Hajian's only complex environment: "It's not simple at home, especially with the children who miss me," says Hajian. "They feel the difficulty that I'm not always around, but they understand it's because of something I really love, and my wife Shlomit always supports me. They're my rock, and because of them I can move forward."

The outstanding soldier award, which joins the many citations he has already accumulated, was presented to Master Sergeant Hajian for "exceptional service, thinking outside the box, and striving for excellence". When asked to answer why he received this medal in his own words, a certain confusion born of modesty takes him over: "I don't know ... Maybe you should ask my commanders."

He came to the ceremony with his family, who were equally excited. "Receiving appreciation and recognition from the supreme commander of the army is a great honor," smiles Master Sergeant Hajian, and immediately emphasizes: "This gives me a very serious push and I mustn't stop now. This status isn't a milestone summing up a past period - but marks the beginning of a new one."