Today, President Isaac Herzog visited the Gaza border area and raised a Rosh HaShanah toast with IDF soldiers stationed in the area. He was accompanied by the IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi.
During the tour, President Herzog was briefed by the head of Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Eliezer Toledano, about the security challenges around the Gaza Strip, and afterwards the President met soldiers stationed in the area and raised a Rosh HaShanah toast with them. President Herzog visited an Iron Dome aerial defense position and then proceeded to inaugurate the new Yigal Allon School in Sderot and meet the leaders of the local authorities.
Meeting IDF soldiers, President Herzog began his remarks by saying: "I am very happy to be here. You are in a place of supreme importance to the security of the State of Israel. I am here on my first visit as the President in the field, with the IDF, and I have come to say thank you. I want to thank you, the men and women of the IDF, on the eve of Rosh HaShanah.
*"I salute you! The State of Israel and the whole nation believe in you so much, and for good reason. You provide meaning to the defense of our home and our homeland. Day by day, hour by hour,"* said President Herzog and emphasized that the Chief of Staff, the head of Southern Command, and the IDF's other commanders and soldiers had his full support.
President Herzog told the soldiers about his recent condolence call to the family of the late Border Police officer Barel Hadaria Shmueli and said: *"Barel died a hero. We must not allow the arguments between us, within Israeli society, around incidents like this impossibly painful and tragic event to give succor to our enemies beyond the fence."*
President Herzog thanked the soldiers for their devoted work and stressed: "I wish all of you good health. Look after yourselves. We are praying for you to return in peace and we thank you for your efforts both to complete your missions and to return home in peace. May this be a year of peace and security, blessed work, and good health, for both you and your families."
Continuing his tour of the Gaza border area, President Herzog inaugurated the Yigal Allon School in the town of Sderot together with the local mayor, Alon Davidi, and said: "In a town that has endured sirens for so many years, this is the reality into which boys and girls are born. I know that this situation has impressed itself on your personalities, but I can tell you that I have come here after conducting a tour with IDF forces in the area and we have a powerful army. *We have excellent commanders and soldiers, and they will rise to any mission and perform it as best as possible, and I wouldn't advise any enemy to test us.* I am thankful to the IDF and the security and emergency forces for their work here in Sderot and more widely."
During his tour, President Herzog visited the kibbutz of Kfar Aza, where he met Deputy Defense Minister Alon Schuster MK, Sha'ar HaNegev Regional Council head Ofir Libstein, Hof Ashkelon Regional Council head Itamar Revivo, and Sdot Negev Regional Council head Tamir Idan, who told the President about the civilian situation assessment in the area and about their preparations ahead of the Jewish High Holy Days.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi said: "The IDF is a single tapestry of many people, and the tip of the spear is you, the combat soldiers, who form a buffer between the enemy and threats and the State of Israel. You are defending your home. The experience of being combat soldier, combat commander, and combat officer is one that will stay with you for the rest of your lives, an experience of true friendship, an experience that changes you and teaches you to work under pressure. It is an experience that teaches you initiative and leadership.
"In the context of recent events, in the place we are in, it should be perfectly clear: you have the freedom of maneuver to complete your missions, to use your weapons whenever there is a threat, whenever there is a danger to citizens of the State of Israel, to its sovereignty, or to you. I want to thank you and tell you that we trust you and your judgment, and even on occasions when in hindsight it seems likely that someone's judgement was incorrect, we and I will have your backs. Remember this, and with this spirit, complete your missions. I am proud of you and wish you a Shanah Tovah."