Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) along with the security forces of the Biblical city of Beit El and Border Police officers on Monday foiled a terror attack planned on the city. The terrorist was caught through their joint efforts.

“Army intelligence discovered the plot because the terrorist posted his intentions on Facebook,” a top member of Beit El security said. “Special IDF army forces entered the Arab village of Jilazoun, near Ramallah and next to Beit El, in the evening and caught the suspect.”

Modern Beit El, located in the Binyamin region of Judea and Samaria, was established in 1977 to strengthen Israel’s security in the area. It is mentioned in Genesis as the city from which Jacob had his prophetic dream. Jacob called the place “Beit El”, which means “House of God”. Located in the Binyamin Region north of Jerusalem, the mostly Orthodox Jewish town of 6,500 people has suffered from regular attacks from Palestinians, especially during the first and second intifadas. Following the creation of a bypass road, which helps travelers avoid their Arab neighbors, things quieted to a degree.

Yet as recently as the end of September, Beit El experienced gunshots fired at private homes from the contentious Arab village of Ramallah nearby. The Israeli government, due to the clashes, has allocated funds to build a wall around the community.

Beit El spokesperson Yael Ben-Yashar stated that the request to build a wall came after “the Palestinians attacked the community several times over the last year, including shootings at houses and using explosive devices and Molotov cocktails, which have started fires.”

In the meantime, Beit El residents are grateful to Israel’s soldiers and security forces. “I didn’t hear or know a thing until I saw the notice that, thank God, everything was back to normal,” told Beit El resident Debbie Dan. “I am very thankful for our especially good security forces and army!”

These sentiments were echoed by Dr. John A.I. Grossman, Chairman of LIBI USA, an organization which supports IDF soldier welfare. “The Beit El incident proves that just because things appear generally quiet in Israel doesn’t mean that the enemies of the Jewish people have stopped their tragic ways,” he said. “This situation shows that Israel’s security forces must stay diligent always. We remain grateful for their bravery and dedication.”

Beit El has been at the forefront of the Israeli settlement enterprise since its founding. Israel’s government recently approved 300 additional housing units in the community, which has been denied expansion for ten years. However, since US President Donald Trump came into office and with the election of American Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who has personally raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Beit El, maintaining security in the area is considered crucial.

“LIBI USA will continue to support Israel’s soldiers in any way that we can in order to ensure that they have the tools, education and morale to hopefully stop terror in its tracks, as they did in Beit El, and provide Israel’s citizens with the security that everyone is entitled to enjoy,” said Grossman.

IDF Soldiers Petition Chief to Restore Army Bible Studies

Following the cancellation of a weekly Bible study class in October, over 800 Israel Defense Forces soldiers have signed a petition imploring IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot to reinstate the lessons.

The popular class was canceled by General Aharon Haliva, commander of the IDF’s Technological and Logistics Directorate, without an explanation.

General Haliva is known for his anti-religious sentiments. In 2010, several Knesset members even called for his dismissal following harsh rhetoric against observant soldiers.

“‘Sunday Sadness’ is a running phrase among Israel’s soldiers, which is used to describe their mood at having to return to base on Sundays after the Sabbath,” shared Dr. John A.I. Grossman, Chairman of LIBI USA, an organization which supports Israeli soldier welfare outside of the IDF budget.

“This Bible class was called ‘Sunday Happiness’ to counteract that feeling. It brought a deeper purpose and understanding to our soldiers about the Holy Land and the importance of protecting it.”

The class was given in the parking lot of a huge training base in Israel’s southern Negev. The base is used by a large number of IDF soldiers for reporting to duty on Sunday. There, they wait for buses to take them to their assignments. Rather than waste often extensive downtime, Rabbi Peretz Einhorn arranged for the Bible study classes.  

The petition, signed by more than 800 IDF soldiers, credits Rabbi Einhorn with “softening the landing from the house to the military routine.”

“The rabbi talks to us about values and morality, strengthens us to be professional and disciplined soldiers with moral values, magnanimous and welcoming,” the soldiers wrote in the petition. The class “makes us good soldiers, the soldiers you want to raise – soldiers with values, disciplined – and happy.”

“Unfortunately, too many Israelis have missed out on an education about their heritage and their country,” continued Grossman. “The importance of Bible study and cultural education should not be underestimated. Therefore, LIBI USA is proud to sponsor these important programs.”

Grossman notes that it is a positive sign that soldiers desire to strengthen their army service by gaining knowledge of their land and history through Bible study. “Many of Israel’s greatest soldiers and officers come from religious backgrounds,” he said.

“Soldiers who know that they are doing God’s will by protecting Israel have a greater clarity of their mission and strong motivation. This is a win-win situation for everyone.”

The Controversy Continues: Should There Be Female IDF Combat Soldiers?

Though Israel accepted the Equality Amendment to the Defense Services Law in 2000, which states that acceptance to Israel Defense Force (IDF) combat units must be based on ability rather than gender, nearly two decades later, controversy still exists whether female combat soldiers are beneficial both to the state of Israel as well as to the fighters. Not only do religious leaders continue to insist on stricter separation of the sexes in army units, but the IDF has announced that it is freezing the draft rate of combat positions for women in order to reassess the mental and physical consequences on women who have gone through their rigorous service.

About 2,700 women will be drafted this year to combat positions, 200 more than in 2016. Yet critics note that the IDF was forced to reduce combat unit requirements in order for female soldiers to pass the rigorous demands. With the IDF Medical Corps finding that female combat soldiers suffer dramatically higher rates of stress fractures and other injuries, along with the religious right calling to boycott the IDF’s officer training course due to the mixing of the sexes, the IDF is forced to take a hard look at the reality of female combat soldiers.

Since the Equality Law went into effect, 90 percent of IDF positions have been open to women, including a large and expanded array of combat roles. In addition, women make up 50 percent of the Home Front Command and Air Defense Command and 35 percent of Border Police. However, the IDF is freezing female enlistment to elite and regular infantry units until the report is in.

“Our main concern must not only be the protection of the State of Israel, but also the welfare of our soldiers,” stated Dr. John A.I. Grossman, Chairman of LIBI USA, the organization which provides for IDF soldier welfare programs and needs which falls outside of the army’s budget, to Breaking Israel News. “Israel’s army is unique in its efforts for equal opportunity. But, those opportunities cannot come at the expense of the physical or mental health of our soldiers or the safety of the country.”

The report will include the evaluation of female soldier abilities to withstand the physical and mental pressure inherent in combat positions as well as the long-term physiological effects of combat service on women. Though the IDF has made many accommodations for female combat soldiers, it is unclear if these modifications are beneficial either to the individual fighters or the army at large.

For example, women are only required to carry 20 percent of their weight for 10 kilometers as compared to their male counterparts, who must carry 40 percent of their weight for 30 kilometers. Even with this adaptation, women have been found to have a disproportionate amount of injuries. In addition, there have been several reports of women claiming permanent bodily harm, including infertility, due to their combat service.

“It is noteworthy that, in Israel’s War of Independence in 1948 and the Sinai war in 1956, every male and female between the ages of 18 and 40 were recruited to serve, as the country had no choice given its small population against its enemy,” continued Grossman. “Women even flew fighter planes, a rarity today. That is partly why the 2000 law was so important. But, we see that the issue is not as straightforward as hoped for.”

The report’s findings will help the IDF decide if female draft rates to combat units should be limited or whether to actually increase the number of women in combat positions. Presently, though every Israeli male and female must enlist in Israel’s army, women serve in combat through their own choice.