An Israeli soldier prays by a tank at an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) staging area in the central Gaza border,.
Brig. Gen. Ofer Winter is the darling of Religious Zionists in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). A combat officer, he has made his way up the IDF ladder in the toughest units, on the hottest military fronts and through the IDF’s most dangerous operations in the last decade. In recent years, Winter has become a symbol of the Zionist religious stream that has taken the military by storm in every branch — i.e., land, air and sea.
The number of Religious Zionists in the army’s elite units, infantry and armored units is much greater than their percentage of the population. According to Israel’s Bureau of Statistics, 11% of Israeli Jews aged 20 and above self-identify as “religious.” About 40% of the soldiers who had completed the IDF’s officer training course as of 2017 were from the Zionist religious population. Even in the upper echelons, such as the infantry divisions, many of the commanding officers belong to this stream. There are not, however, brigadier generals from the Religious Zionist sector on the next highest rung of the IDF ladder, such as commanders of infantry divisions, the most prestigious commanding roles in the army. This statistic infuriates the national-religious Jews.
Some believe that the army’s highest echelons are blocking their youth from the highest levels for political reasons. Religious Zionists are known as right-wing ideologists. Prior to the disengagement from Gaza in 2005, there was concern that some of them would refuse to follow military orders and instead obey their rabbis. They are part of Naftali Bennett’s HaBayit HaYehudi electoral pool. Despite the fact that they have, to date, passed all the “military versus religious tests,” they still bear an automatic burden of proof. The round of IDF appointments announced June 11 transformed Religious Zionist infuriation into a real uproar.
Despite expectations, and after Winter’s promotion had been frozen in the past, the IDF chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, did not promote him to division commander. Instead, Winter remains in the lackluster division to which he was appointed after he concluded his stint as brigade commander of Givati. This can mean only one thing: The chief of staff is showing Winter the door. Thus, one of the bravest and most creative officers in the army, the man who was supposed to be the next religious general and potential leader, will evidently not become a member of the IDF’s prestigious chief of staff forum. Thus, Eizenkot has branded himself as the person out to get the Zionist religious sector in the IDF.
Those who really know Eizenkot know that he distances himself from politics. The officers promoted over Winter’s head are also worthy soldiers. The group includes a former member of the General Staff Reconnaissance Unit and a former naval commander unit officer. The chief of staff has the absolute authority to appoint officers on this level, and his decisions cannot be appealed. All anyone can do is criticize his decisions.
Eizenkot’s high valuation of Winter suffered somewhat after the 2014 Operation Protective Edge campaign in Gaza, when Winter commanded the Givati Brigade. In that campaign, Lt. Hadar Goldin was killed in a Hamas ambush of Givati during a humanitarian cease-fire. Hamas then seized Goldin’s body. Under Winter, Givati conducted the famed Hannibal Procedure: The IDF rained heavy fire on the Rafah area, causing numerous Palestinian casualties. This, in turn, led to heavy criticism of Israel and the IDF’s fire procedures. Despite this, it is believed that Winter’s actions in other contexts are what truly undercut Eizenkot’s image of Winter.
During the operation, Winter met at least once with Naftali Bennett, Cabinet member and head of HaBayit HaYehudi, the party of the Zionist religious stream. Winter and Bennett are brothers in arms. They served together in the IDF’s elite Maglan Special Forces unit and remained close friends from then on. It was based on Winter’s information and briefings that Bennett sharply criticized IDF policy and conduct in Cabinet meetings. Bennett especially criticized Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon.
Winter’s tie to politicians behind the army’s back angered many among the IDF’s top echelons. Winter also rang warning bells in the IDF during Protective Edge by circulating a letter among his subordinate officers in which he said that they were chosen to spearhead the fighting against “the terrorist ‘Gazan’ enemy which abuses, blasphemes and curses the God of Israel’s [defense] forces.” One highly placed chief of staff forum officer who objected to Winter’s language told Al-Monitor at the time, on the condition of anonymity, “Jihad is something we leave to the other side.”
Winter recanted his statement, but his message appeared to continue to resonate in the public arena. Thus, the outstanding officer, brave and creative, crossed several red lines while trying to make his way to the top. One of these lines was especially sensitive and explosive: the huge gap separating the worldviews of secular or traditional IDF soldiers and those of Religious Zionist fighters, who are much more committed to their rabbis’ dictates and to Jewish religious law, including when these collide with military orders.
In the last decade, Religious Zionist members have largely replaced the collective secular pioneers and kibbutz movement members in the IDF’s combat and command backbone. In the first decades after the establishment of the state, multitudes of kibbutz and moshav (village) members filled the combat fighter ranks. This sector raised thousands of fighters, hundreds of officers and a significant proportion of military leaders who later became the state’s leaders. Societal evolution in Israel changed this.
While a significant percentage of kibbutz members still serve in the army — as combat soldiers and officers and after compulsory service — the Religious Zionists have stolen the show. The face of the IDF is slowly changing. Religion is seeping into places and events where it never had before. This raises concern among many over the way the army is changing. The IDF has always tried to remain focused on its military goals without a hidden agenda, free of messianism and unprofessional “foreign” interests.
Recent years have seen storms in the Israeli public, surrounding statements made by prominent Religious Zionist rabbis who not infrequently crossed the line into the ostensibly isolated sphere of the army. The IDF has already imposed sanctions on pre-military religious academies that failed to close ranks with army orders. The atmosphere surrounding this sensitive issue is steadily heating up. Religious Zionist soldiers feel betrayed. They feel that while they constitute a significant proportion of the IDF’s combat ranks, the army is trying to push them away instead of thanking them.
Now Eizenkot is in their crosshairs, and not for the first time. True, Bennett and his crowd know that the chief of staff is not driven by any political agenda and has no secret plans to edge the Religious Zionists out of the IDF. Nevertheless, right-wing tweeters and “professional troublemakers” continue to spread accusations against Eizenkot and other IDF elites and “count kippot” (Jewish skullcaps) in the chief of staff forum. When will this end? Perhaps when the IDF appoints its first Religious Zionist chief of staff. In other words, not in the foreseeable future.
We all know that the midterm elections are different this time around. They are usually like “all politics,” namely local. But this time around they’re different. They are all presidential, all about Trump, as most everything is. And for the anti-Trump crowd — I’m talking about the political commentators and “analysts” — any and all things bad are held to be Trump’s fault. This is presumably because they believe that their condemnations of Trump will result in a Democrat takeover of the House of Representatives.
A new book explores how graffiti artists in Beirut skirt limitations on expression to share political criticism in the streets.
A photograph of the book “Drawing Lines” by Tamara Zantout, taken at the launch of the book at Beit Beirut cultural center, Beirut, Lebanon, Oct. 25, 2018.
BEIRUT — Beirut’s alleyways and streets are peppered in bright, detailed and provocative graffiti. Street artists use the medium, which exists in a legal grey area, to express their identity and give voice to political frustrations.
On Tuesday, San Francisco will become the largest city in the nation to allow noncitizens to vote, and the city has spent $310,000 on a “new registration system” specifically aimed at illegals. As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, the plan is the first in the state and follows Proposition N, a 2016 ballot measure allowing votes by noncitizens over the age of 18, reside in the city, and have children under age 19.
By the count of the Chronicle, only 49 noncitizens have signed up to vote on Tuesday, which works out to $6,326 for every illegal voter, but there’s more to the story. City officials are worried that voting could expose illegals to ICE, who might come looking and possibly deport somebody. So supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, a backer of Proposition N, urged the city to spend $500,000 to warn the illegals.
At first Sabbath service after massacre, shooting survivors are blessed; rabbi says to those who condemned Trump’s visit: ‘No one tells me how to welcome a guest in my own home’
On November 3, 2018, a joint communal Shabbat prayer service at Pittsburgh’s Beth Shalom Conservative synagogue following the massacre a week prior which saw 11 Jewish community members killed. (Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel)
PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania — A week after an anti-Semitic shooter massacred 11 worshipers at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, the community embraced each other in prayer on Saturday.
IS EUROPE RETURNING to the horrors of the 1930s? In an assessment typical of the moment, Max Holleran writes in the New Republic that “in the past ten years, new right-wing political movements have brought together coalitions of Neo-Nazis with mainstream free-market conservatives, normalizing political ideologies that in the past rightly caused alarm.” He sees this trend creating a surge in “xenophobic populism.” Writing in Politico, Katy O’Donnell agrees: “Nationalist parties now have a toehold everywhere from Italy to Finland, raising fears the continent is backpedaling toward the kinds of policies that led to catastrophe in the first half of the 20th century.” Jewish leaders like Menachem Margolin, head of the European Jewish Association, sense “a very real threat from populist movements across Europe.”
IS EUROPE RETURNING to the horrors of the 1930s? In an assessment typical of the moment, Max Holleran writes in the New Republic that “in the past ten years, new right-wing political movements have brought together coalitions of Neo-Nazis with mainstream free-market conservatives, normalizing political ideologies that in the past rightly caused alarm.”
We’ve been told for a long time that the ceasefire is on the way. It had many names in the past, such as tahdiah, hudna, and most recently—”an arrangement.” On Friday, once again, reports started emerging that an agreement has been reached. Several hours later, southern Israel was hit with a barrage of rockets. What happened?
And He said, “You will not be able to see My face, for No Human Being shall see Me and live.” — Shemot 33:20
Faith is deeper than knowledge. While scientific data is absorbed only in the brain, faith permeates all parts of the human personality. Nothing is untouched, all spiritual limbs quiver, and everything is transformed. It is thus more difficult to acquire faith than knowledge, and faith has a more radical effect on the human being.
A Catholic archbishop recently touched on an unspoken but highly subversive phenomenon: How anti-Christian forces exploit Christian teachings to empower those who seek to dismantle Christian civilization, Muslims being chief among them.
In an interview published last summer by the Italian outlet IlGionarle.it, Catholic Archbishop Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan said:
The King of Jordan, not some lowly clerk, announced that Jordan will not extend the currently existing leases renting two parcels of land to Israel. One is the so-called Island of Peace in the northern Naharayim area and the other located in the southern Arava, near Tzofar, an agricultural cooperative village (moshav). Jordan was entirely within its rights to decide not to renew the leases