Tuesday, January 6, 2015

President Rivlin: “Israel is ready for a religious IDF Chief of Staff”

For the past 40 years, thousands of graduates of the YBA Educational Network enrolled in one of the many five-year Hesder yeshiva programs that combine Torah study with active duty in various IDF combat units, rather than going directly into the army after high school. 

However, in recent years, a third option has been growing in popularity among our graduates – Pre-IDF Mechina (Preparatory) programs. These 12 or 18-month programs prepare students mentally, physically and spiritually for the rigors of “meaningful and substantial” service in the IDF – code words for elite fighting units and combat officer training.


The result of this trend has been enormous – about 50% of combat officers in the IDF today wear the Bnei Akiva signature ‘kipa sruga’ (knitted kipa). Each year, the three Mechina Programs in the YBA network (Kiryat Malachi, Or Me’Ofir and Machon Yedidya) are actively Training Israel's Future TM by producing over 225 highly motivated IDF recruits.

President of Israel, Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin
During Chanukah, President Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin visited Mechinat Bnei David, the first Mechina program of its kind, located in the Shomron town of Eli, and had this to say about the disproportionately large number of religious officers in the IDF:

Students, let me tell you and repeat it again: you can become platoon commanders, company commanders, battalion commanders, generals and even the Chief of Staff or Israel’s Prime Minister.
In fact, I'm sure that in the not too distant future, a religious Chief of Staff will be appointed. But he won’t be appointed because he is religious, rather because he is the most competent; the most outstanding; the most driven to contribute; the best soldier in the IDF.

As a society, we are ready for a religious Chief of Staff, just as we should be ready for a Druze Chief of Staff. The outgoing Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, put it well when he said, ‘When I appoint officers, I don’t check what they are wearing under their helmet.’

Moreover, I want to tell you that Israel must never check what is under the helmet of its best soldiers; whether or not they have an accent; or what color their skin is.

If some of us fear that Israeli society is not ready for this, I would argue the opposite. In fact, I would demand the opposite! As long as we focus only on the litmus test of competence for the position, we will be able to find and appoint those who are the most talented, the most value-driven and the most motivated by a sense of mission. Thus will our society be enhanced.

This isnt a matter of waiting until the time is right. On the contrary, we must promote nondiscrimination, not just in the security sector, but in all public, economic and social sectors. We must promote individuals completely on the basis of objective criteria, and to act blindly towards extraneous considerations. Only in this way, through the actual practice of nondiscrimination, will Israeli society mature to adulthood.

We cannot demand the blood and sacrifice of different sectors, without allowing them access to leadership positions; to help navigate the ship of State. Every tank crew member must know that one day he will also be able to command.  Every female pilot needs to know that one day she may become the squadron commander. Every outstanding Arab doctor at Hadassah Hospital needs to know that he can one day be appointed to head his department. And every religious government trainee must know that one day he can rise to become the CEO of his ministry.”

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