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.

IDF Aid Team Heads Home From Mexico in Time for Yom Kippur

The 71-member team from the Israel Defense Force (IDF) sent to Mexico City after a devastating earthquake is returning to Israel in time to celebrate the holiest day on the Jewish calendar: Yom Kippur. The delegation was sent to Mexico to help find victims buried under rubble, check the stability of buildings and provide medical care, if needed.

“We are proud of the dedicated team of Israeli soldiers who left their families and Israel on the eve of the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashana) in order to help those in need and save lives,” expressed Dr. John A.I. Grossman, Chairman of LIBI USA, an organization which supports IDF soldier welfare. “The Mexicans were visibly grateful for this help and Israel looks forward to continued warm relations with Mexico.”

The IDF team spent the week in Mexico City looking for trapped survivors buried under rubble and surveying buildings damaged by in the deadly earthquake. Thus far, it is estimated that at least 400 people have been killed by the disaster.

Earlier in the week, citizens of Mexico City applauded the IDF soldiers as they walked through the streets. In addition, a heartfelt “thank you” and farewell ceremony was held with dignitaries and the IDF soldiers in attendance.

Following the Mexican government’s request to Israel for assistance, Israel sent the IDF team within 48 hours of the earthquake. The Israeli delegation was one of the first foreign groups to arrive, touching down on September 21, the date of this year’s Jewish New Year.

“In Judaism, saving lives takes precedence over all other commandments,” explained Grossman. “IDF soldiers serve 365 days a year saving lives in Israel and, when needed, abroad.”

It is reported that the IDF delegation is leaving Mexico City with most of the enormous city having functioning electricity, water, and public transportation. Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said in a statement Wednesday, “I hope that in the new year we will be able to have also a new Mexico, rebuilt and in normal conditions.”

To donate to IDF soldier welfare, please visit here.

IDF Teams Up With Emergency Medics to Prevent Heart Attack Deaths

Israel Defense Force (IDF) medical personnel are joining forces with Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s national rescue organization, to increase the amount of first responders during a medical emergency. The program, called “Life Guardians”, is a first for both the IDF and MDA.

“We have approached the IDF Chief Medical Officer, [former] Brigadier General Dr. Dudu Dagan, who instantly enlisted IDF medical personnel to the important, lifesaving project for the benefit of all civilians of Israel, and I thank him for that,” said MDA Director General Eli Bin as reported by Israel National News.

“The soldiers and officers joining the ‘Life Guardians’ project will assist in saving the lives of many every year, and I am confident that this collaboration constitutes a tremendous power multiplier in preliminary life-saving treatment to civilians and soldiers at any time of need.”

Thousands of IDF medical personnel are expected to volunteer for the new initiative. As only 3 percent of those who experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital survive and recover without permanent damage, the need to train as many people as possible to do chest compression upon an attack is urgent. Patients who receive proper chest compression while waiting for an ambulance to arrive have a much higher rate of survival.

“It is an honor and a privilege for IDF medical personnel to join the ‘Life Guardians’ program,” stated Dr. John A.I. Grossman, Chairman of LIBI USA, the official welfare fund of the IDF. “We are proud that our well-trained and dedicated soldiers are recognized by the MDA as being able to increase the chances for saving lives in Israel.”

Tens of thousands of civilians have taken the MDA’s 20-hour first aid training course, which teaches basic resuscitation of patients suffering cardiac arrest. Now, there will be thousands of IDF medical personnel, officers and reservists on call 24/7, throughout the Holy Land, to potentially arrive before ambulances and during the first critical minutes of an emergency.

“IDF medical personnel, including EMTs, paramedics, nurses and doctors will now receive notifications of a medical crisis using a specialized mobile application which notifies only those within a five minute radius of the emergency,” explained Grossman. “As speed is crucial for survival, this advanced system is a welcome addition to the emergency procedure process.”

Brigadier General Dr. Dudu Dagan stated, “IDF medical teams scattered throughout Israel operate toward saving the lives of soldiers and civilians day in and day out. Incorporating IDF medical corps staff into this national rescue project of utmost importance is essential in enabling medical staff to provide rapid, advanced medical treatment wherever they are. I am hopeful that this way, we will be able to significantly expand the circle of ‘Life Guardians’ together with our friends from MDA.”

To support IDF medical personnel welfare, please donate here.

Lone Soldiers Stream to Israel in Summer of Aliyah

In a strong show of faith and solidarity with Israel, Nefesh B’Nefesh, an organization founded in 2002 to make immigration to Israel easier, is celebrating bringing approximately 2,000 immigrants to the Holy Land in the summer of 2017. Included in this number are 82 future lone soldiers (Israel Defense Force soldiers without family in Israel).

“Moving to a foreign country in the Middle East is not an easy choice in the best of circumstances,” noted Dr. John A.I. Grossman, Chairman of LIBI USA, the official welfare fund of the IDF. “Taking all that upon oneself in order to volunteer for Israel’s army is truly extraordinary.”

Israel’s consul-general in New York, Dani Dayan, told the new immigrants that they represented a “mortal blows to the delegitimization of Israel”. “They take notice of it in Tehran,” he said. “When Hezbollah threatens Israel, they know that you will defeat it.”

Turning specifically to the group of future IDF soldiers, Dayan added, “You are the commanders of the Jewish people… My young friends, you are about to join the first Jewish army in 2,000 years.”

While enlistment in the IDF is a known and expected rite-of-passage for native-born Israelis, lone soldiers can face tremendous cultural and emotional obstacles. Though each lone soldier on the Nefesh B’Nefesh flight displayed a brave and excited face, LIBI USA recognizes that the road ahead for them can be lonely and challenging.

“These immigrant soldiers rarely have a full command of the Hebrew language and often have no family or friends to turn to during the holidays and time off,” continued Grossman. “Therefore, LIBI USA funds IDF educational and cultural programs as well as special holiday gifts and activities specifically for lone soldiers.”

Natan Sharansky, the chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, shared at the flights welcome ceremony, “There are anti-Semites on the right and anti-Semites on the left. Our best answer is what you’re doing. We continue to build together our home, the State of Israel.”

Hannah Partney, a 22 year-old from Connecticut, said that she was eager to join an IDF combat unit, even though she lacks close family or roots in Israel. “I’ve always been interested in military service,” she said. “I thought about the US military but ultimately didn’t go that way. I’m interested in the discipline and the challenges. I don’t want to live in Israel on a free ticket. I want to do a service. That’s really important to me.”

Joshua Eisdorfer, a 22-year-old from Rockville, Maryland, referred to the Bible, stating, “Israel is my home and birthright, and the homeland of every Jew. In Bamidbar (the Book of Numbers), Moses says, ‘Shall your brothers go to war, and you sit here?’ Israel is the defense of world Jewry, and I want to be in the vanguard.”

“The August 15 flight is particularly noteworthy as a quarter of those on board have volunteered to serve in the IDF,” continued Grossman. “That’s a humbling reality which should send a message to all of us. Each individual who cares about Israel should do their part to support the Holy Land and its dedicated soldiers.”