Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s younger son Avner Netanyahu finished his mandatory Israel Defense Force (IDF) service last week. Avner served in the Combat Intelligence Collection Corps.
“We are proud of you and love you and we share the excitement of all Israeli parents who go through this wonderful experience,” said the prime minister on behalf of himself and his wife, Sara. “Avner completed a significant period in the army. Three years ago we hugged you with your conscription and today we are excited with the opening of a new chapter in your life.”
Every 18-year-old in Israel is required to serve in the army. Religious girls may receive an exemption or perform national service in lieu of regular army service and special stipulations are made for religious male soldiers. However, it is generally recognized that those who serve in the army do better professionally after discharge.
The Netanyahu family has a proud history of serving in the IDF. Sara Netanyahu’s father Shmuel Ben-Artzi served in the Etzel underground military group in 1945. From 1946 to 1948, Ben-Artzi served in the Haganah, which later became the IDF.
The prime minister himself was an officer in the elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit. His brother Yonatan was the only soldier killed during the miraculous Operation Entebbe, when a group of IDF soldiers freed Israelis being held hostage in Uganda in 1976.
For his service, Avner’s older brother Yair served in the IDF Spokesperson’s Office.
Avner was drafted into the IDF in 2014, under much media fanfare. “We are moved just like every mother and father who watch their son go off to the army,” the prime minister said at the time. “We are full of pride and naturally worry. Everyone knows this, every home in Israel, and we are no different. I told Avner to take care of the state and to take care of himself.”
Avner was offered a spot in the army’s media corps, but he chose to serve in a combat role instead.
“We are proud of every IDF soldier and wish each of them health and safety during their service,” said Dr. John A.I. Grossman, Chairman of LIBI USA, an organization which supports Israeli soldier welfare outside of the IDF budget. “It is a statement of unity that the prime minister’s sons served in the IDF, as all Israelis must send their children into the army. We are honored to help this ‘army of the people’ any way that we can.”
In 2010, Avner, at the age of 15, won Israel’s prestigious Youth Bible Quiz against 12,000 other students. He went on to achieve third place in the International Bible Quiz contest held each year on Israel’s Independence Day.
Avner credits his dedication to Judaism to his mother’s father, Shmuel Ben-Artzi. Ben-Artzi began keeping Biblical commandments in his later years. Due to his grandfather’s influence, Avner keeps Shabbat. Ben-Artzi, who lived in the Prime Minister’s residence for his last years, died at the age of 97.
“Public recognition of Avner’s achievements is inspiring,” said Grossman. “Rather than sit on his laurels, he shone both as a representative of Judaism and its army. We hope that his dedication to the Land of Israel will inspire many.”
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