President Reuven Rivlin visited the IDF’s Havat HaShomer base this morning, Wednesday. The president was escorted by Head of the Manpower Division, Maj-Gen Moti Almoz and Chief Education Officer Brig-Gen Zvika Faireisen. During his visit the commanders of the base briefed him on how the IDF works to incorporate special populations. He toured the classrooms and took part in a final lesson of basic training, and then met with graduates, soldiers and officers of the base for a discussion.
Michael Ben-Shetreet, one of the first graduates of Havat HaShomer and now a lecturer in education, leadership and excellence, came to meet the president during his visit and said, “the feeling that I am capable, something that developed during my time here, has stayed with me my whole life. The education system had given up on me, without giving me a chance. It was actually in the IDF, which exists to ensure our security, where I found social justice. Without this framework, I would not have had a chance of surviving in any other military environment, or in life afterwards.”
The president thanked Michael for his openness and said, “when we talk about national resilience, we are talking first and foremost about the resilience of our society. The IDF is the people’s army, and so it must ensure that everyone can be part of it. Formative experiences like yours make our society excel.”
“I have been with the Chief of Staff, the Deputy Chief of Staff, with commanders of Armor, Infantry, Intelligence and Artillery, and I have visited all of the IDF’s units. I have never been so moved as I am today,” said the president. “This place makes it clear that everyone is part of the IDF, and so is part of the country and part of our shared hopes.”
The president added, “the true strength of the IDF is its belief in people, no matter where they come from or how they started out. The strength of the IDF is the belief that everyone can contribute, and that you have something to contribute. That’s what makes the IDF strong, that’s what makes Israeli society strong. Serving in the IDF is an opportunity for each one of you recruits to change your life. It is not only an opportunity to serve the country and to make an impact. It is an opportunity for you to turn a page, a new and clean slate. To start afresh and take your place in society as a regular citizen. Do not miss this opportunity. Grab it with both hands!”
The president asked soldiers who have a criminal record to talk to their commanders and to begin the process of clearing their records. “During your military service, when you are assigned to your units and begin your assignments, please approach your commanders or the Education Corps to begin the process of clearing your criminal record, if you have one. As the President of the State of Israel with responsibility for granting pardons, I promise you here that I will look at each application seriously and with love. I will look positively on the request of any soldier who performs meaningful service in the IDF.”
The president thanked the instructing staff for their work, saying “the commanders here today deal with some of the most complex educational and command challenges in a way that is truly inspirational. Your determination not to give up on any soldier – ‘no soldier left behind’ – the persistence, the mental resilience required from you when you are sowing and reaping seeds of hope, are an example to us all. We are proud of you! I am sure that the recruits also know that it is a great privilege to have commanders like you.” The president concluded with wishes that when he next meets the recruits, it will be at the ceremony on Independence Day for outstanding soldiers.