A Path to Success

Starting college is a milestone that most young adults look forward to. It’s also the stepping stone to carving out a path to success. 

 

But for soldiers who need a little help, the Libi Fund, the official body for donations that go directly to IDF soldiers, offers an innovative scholarship program to IDF troops upon completion of their military service. 

 

“Those who think about days, sow wheat. Those who think about years, plant trees. Those who think about generations, educate soldiers,” Yoram Yair, the president of Yachad United For Israel’s Soldier’s, which works closely with LIBI, said in a speech introducing the program which is dubbed “Uniform to University.” 

 

As such, that program will ensure that every soldier will be able to pursue higher education or vocational training.

 

For many soldiers, this program is a game-changer.

Take Lt. Col. N, who remarked that such a program gives soldiers a much-needed boost of energy as they begin their life as adults. 

 

In fact, when soldiers first heard they were entitled to scholarships back in 2016, Lt. Col. Benni Aharon recalled that it was the main topic of conversation in dining rooms at IDF bases across the country. 

 

For the young men and women who literally put their lives on hold to protect Israel, it is yet another initiative given to them which makes them feel appreciated. 

 

“Soldiers understood that their daily activities and sacrifice is not being taken for granted by the government or the citizens of Israel,” Aharon added.

 

For soldiers like Sergeant Rotem Karas, who never even considered getting a bachelor’s degree after his army service, this scholarship program changed the entire course of his life. 

 

“I’m grateful that the military will help with my advancement in life. Knowing that they will foot the bill will make it much easier to study,” he said.  

 

The details of the program were ironed out during a meeting with former IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and then Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon. Eisenkot called on the ministry to help obtain funding to not just combat soldiers, but anyone who completes their service successfully. As such, the program won’t only change the lives of IDF soldiers, scholarship funding will also be allocated to new immigrants, minorities, and families struggling financially.

 

In addition to this program, LIBI also provides educational courses while soldiers are still in the middle of their army services. This allows them to complete the classes they need to matriculate, which will make the transition to university be easier once they’re discharged. 

 

“Sometimes, soldiers leave the army and feel they need to start from scratch when it comes to building their life as an adult,” LIBI Chairman Dr. John Grossman, said. “These mechanisms being put in place – supplemental education coupled with a scholarship upon completion of services helps these fine young men and women not only get a clearer sense of who they want to be, but how they can pave the path to get there.”

 

Helping such a wide swath of young people carries a hefty bill. Specifically, Ynet reported the program would cost some NIS 500 million per year. 

 

Underwriting much of the cost is the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers and the Friends of the IDF (FIDF) organizations.

 

Supporters of the scholarship fund hope that this will equalize opportunities for soldiers since some who hail from elite combat units automatically get scholarship funds, but other soldiers from other impressive – but not as prestigious units – were not entitled to a scholarship. 

 

 

With donations from generous supporters from all over the world to the Uniform to University program, LIBI ensures that every soldier will be able to obtain a college degree or vocational training. 

A Day of Mourning and Redemption

The Jewish people are now in the midst of what is perhaps the saddest time of year – the nine days. During this time, they deprive themselves of meat, wine and partaking in joyous occasions. It’s a time to not only mourn but reflect upon the lessons learned from the destruction of their holy temple.

Those nine days, of course, culminate in Tisha B’Av. It is a day when the Jewish people fast and pray to God over a Temple that wasn’t just destroyed once, but twice. First, by the and then by the Romans. And hundreds of years later, in another humiliating defeat, the Bar Kochba Revolt was brutally suppressed by the Romans on the very same day.

When the First Temple was destroyed, 100,000 Jews perished with it. And when the Roman Emperor Titus commanded his soldiers to destroy the Second Temple in 70 CE, some 2 million Jews died. It could have spelled the end of the Jewish people, however, through hope and prayer they persevered.

But the tragedies kept on coming. The horrific events falling on Tisha B’Av don’t end there. That day, too, marked the expulsion of Jews from England in 1290 and then their banishment from Spain in 1492. In modern times, the AMIA bombing in Argentina in 1994, also, took place on that day.

Fast forward to now and luckily much has changed. For one, Israel has a homeland of its own and doesn’t need to rely on foreign hospitality. More importantly, however, it also has a strong army who will ensure the Jewish people will be protected.

“IDF soldiers are, of course, allowed to fast on Tisha B’Av and are exempted from engaging in strenuous physical activity,” Dr. John Grossman, Chairman of LIBI USA, the official welfare fund of the IDF, said. “It is the least we can do for our men and women who give their all to ensure another Tisha B’Av tragedy won’t happen on Israeli soil.”

Further, the significance of Tisha B’Av applies even to non-observant Jews because of the sheer emotional weight of the day. As a recent feature in JNS explains, “In fact, Tisha B’Av…is all about memory, the collective memory of the Jewish people, as much a family as it is a religion.”

It is fitting then, that the IDF not only protects Jews as a nation but as a family.

“Despite our differences, we are all one. And I can’t think of any institution that serves as a better equalizer than the IDF. Whether you’re rich or poor, religious or secular, Ashkenazi or Sephardi, you’re putting on that uniform and making the ultimate sacrifice in order to protect fellow Jews,” Grossman explained.

That’s not to say Israel has been free of tragedy since the establishment of the state. Quite the contrary, merely five years ago, the nation was grappling with Operation Protective Edge. That seven-week conflict left 67 soldiers and six civilians dead. It is those IDF soldiers who put their lives on the line so Hamas terrorists, who dug dozens of tunnels underground, won’t seep into civilian territory wreaking havoc upon Israel and Israelis.

“It is fitting then, as we commemorate this sorrowful holiday, to think and pray for all the men and women who died so the Jewish People – Am Israel could live,” Grossman said.

In fact, Camp Ramah in the Rockies does just that. Since it’s the only Jewish holiday to fall in the summer, counselors use Tisha B’Av as a lesson to rejoice in one’s Jewish identity but also to never forget those who sacrificed everything they have. It is there that campers read the names of family and friends who served in previous Israeli wars as a way to honor this sacred day – that way, the next generation not only joins in marking the somber occasion but also learns to not take their existence for granted.

“We remember all the destructions of the Jewish people, including the Holocaust and the Israeli soldiers who died defending the land of Israel,” camp director Rabbi Eliav Bock told JNS.

Ultimately, though, Tisha B’Av is also a holiday of hope and redemption. Because it is only until the Messiah comes that the Temple will be restored to its former glory and the Jewish people will become whole once again.

But until that day happens, we wait and protect and cherish the Land of Israel and the soldiers who help us do so.

Hoping For the Best, Preparing For the Worst: IDF Faces Prospect of War in the North

Israel’s goal of peaceful co-existence with its surrounding neighbors has not prevented the IDF from taking the necessary steps to prepare for a potential war.

Tensions have been rising on Israel’s northern borders with Syria and Lebanon over the past few weeks. On February 10, the IDF shot down an Iranian drone, which had entered Israeli airspace in a clear violation of Israel’s sovereignty.

In response to this escalated act of aggression by Iran, the IDF launched several attacks against targets in Iran and Syria.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently visited the northern border, along with top security officials.

“Our face is turned toward peace, we are ready for any eventuality, and I don’t suggest anyone test us,” Netanyahu said following the visit.

Numerous IDF officials have been vocal about the high likelihood of an outbreak of war on Israel’s northern border, even within the year. This conflict will likely involve a number of neighboring rogue states, including Lebanon, Syria and Iran.

“The year 2018 has the potential for escalation, not necessarily because either side wants to initiate it, but because of a gradual deterioration,” Maj. Gen.Major General Nitzan Alon, head of IDF Operations, told Army Radio. “This has led us to raise the level of preparedness.”

Any conflict in the north of Israel between the IDF and Iran, Syria, and Lebanon will likely result in battles being fought on multiple fronts. Alon warned that if Israel engages with the Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah terrorist organization in the north, “Iran won’t hold itself back in Gaza. It wants to pay for its interests on the northern border in Palestinian blood.”

This multi-front war situation will be felt across every branch of the military and every citizen of Israel, according to IDF officials. With this foresight, the citizens of Israel, and the IDF are hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.

“The officers and commanders of the IDF are responsible for providing its soldiers with military tactics and training while LIBI USA is responsible for providing the soldiers with welfare support, as well as social and financial assistance,” Dr. John A.I Grossman, Chairman of LIBI USA, said.

The month of February was spent by many IDF divisions and brigades participating in large-scale military exercises in northern Israel. The Galilee Division of the IDF underwent extensive training in preparation for a possible conflict with Hezbollah on the Lebanese border.

It is believed that the terrorist group Hezbollah possesses an arsenal of over 100,000 rockets, which have been financed and supplied by Iran.

“Conscripted soldiers, along with reservists, took part in the exercise. They practiced a rapid call up for reservists, as well as operation capabilities and readiness to fight in Lebanese terrain,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

“We will continue to train and prepare to ensure the security of the residents in this region,” Col. Manny Liberty, Commander of the 769th Brigade, told Times of Israel.

Preparation for a war in 2018 dates back to September 2017, when tens of thousands of IDF troops participated in a 10-day mock-war against Hezbollah. This exercise called “the Light of the Grain” was the largest military exercise carried out in Israel in the last 20 years.

“Tens of thousands of IDF troops are gearing up for a war in the coming year. We are available to provide the soldiers with any support they may require while undergoing this trying training,” said Grossman. “We would like to minimize the stresses and concerns in their lives so that they can be fully focused on their military training.” he continued.

Added Brig. Gen. Zvika Haimovich, commander of the Aerial Defense Array:
“In the coming weeks, we will train together to face complex and challenging scenarios, which are relevant to the dynamic range of threats that we must be prepares to face.”

Tragedy Narrowly Averted: IDF Defuses Bomb on Gaza Fence

A tragedy was narrowly averted when IDF sappers neutralized an improvised explosive device (IED) that had been set on the border fence with Gaza almost three weeks ago by Palestinian rioters.

“Earlier this morning, IDF soldiers neutralized an IED on the security fence in southern Gaza. It was set up to harm IDF soldiers stationed near the fence,” an IDF spokesperson said.

Gazan media reported that IDF sappers used a controlled explosion to neutralize the device.

An additional IED placed at the same time exploded on February 17, injuring four IDF soldiers. The IED, hidden under a Palestinian flag, was set off by remote control when the soldiers attempted to remove it from the fence.

Two of the soldiers were seriously injured and two were moderately hurt. They were hit by shrapnel, sustaining wounds throughout their bodies, including their eyes, doctors said.

Immediately following the IED attack, an Israeli tank fired a shell at an observation post, in response to the attack, the army said.

Last Monday, Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians warned Gazans that the army would respond more aggressively to riots along the security fence.“We know that the violent clashes on the border are used as a cover for terrorist activity, as happened last Saturday. And we will not allow such an event to happen again,” Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai told Palestinians in an Arabic video on social media.“Let it be clear: Beginning today, the IDF will take tough and determined action against rioters along the Strip’s border,” he said.

Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz is a senior writer for Breaking Israel News.

 

IDF Joins Jerusalem Authorities to Combat Terrorism

In a move meant to stem the tide of Palestinian terrorists crossing illegally into Israel, especially in areas of Jerusalem where the Israel Defense Force (IDF) lacks a presence, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot approved a plan to increase cooperation between local security officials and the IDF. The move is meant to improve communication and stop terror in its tracks.

“Though we are grateful that terror attacks in Israel decreased in 2017 from 2016, unfortunately, more Israelis were murdered,” noted Dr. John A.I. Grossman, Chairman of LIBI USA, an organization which provides for the welfare of Israel’s soldiers. “Until terrorists stop their bombings, stabbings, car rammings and shooting of Israel’s soldiers and civilians, IDF soldiers must be supported in their efforts to protect those in the Holy Land.”

In order to stop terror before it happens, the IDF has restructured its brigades and increased cooperation with Jerusalem police and authorities in nearby West Bank areas. IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis stated to military reporters that the plan includes a joint-operations room for all security authorities. Manelis explained the need for the new operative as there has been a rise in Palestinians crossing into areas which lack an IDF presence, bringing an increase in terror and terrorist attempts.

The arrangement was drafted by General Staff officers over the past few months and included insights by Judea and Samaria Division former commander Brig. Gen. Lior Carmeli and Binyamin Regional Brigade commander Col. Yuval Guez. The key to the proposal is to focus defense officials, police, and border police on areas of East Jerusalem outside the security barrier.

In 2017, 20 Israelis were killed and 169 were wounded in 99 terrorist attacks originating in the West Bank. Striving to combat terror, security forces, including the Shin Bet intelligence agency, IDF, and police, have increased efforts to find, shut down and confiscate workshops producing illegal weapons. In addition, they carry out near-nightly raids in the West Bank, greatly reducing the number of illegal explosive devices and other weapons meant for terrorists.

Counterterrorism 2017 reports note that the IDF arrested 3,617 Palestinians, many of whom were found through intelligence monitoring the social media activity of persons who expressed publicly their desire to attack or inspire others to do so. Additionally, Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman stated that some 1,100 potential lone wolf attacks in 2017 were prevented, significantly up from the 400 stopped in 2016.

Forty-two illegal weapons workshops were closed and 455 illegal weapons were seized in the West Bank. This is a significant increase from the 170 illegal weapons seized in 2015.

“We continue to pray for the safety and welfare of all of our security personnel and Israel’s citizens,” said Grossman. “We thank and salute all those who put their own lives on the line in order to save the lives of others.”

Israeli Prime Minister’s Son Avner Netanyahu Completes Army Service

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.”

To make your tax-deductible donation to Israeli soldier welfare, please visit here.

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.

 

IDF Stops Terror Attack in Biblical City of Beit El

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.