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.”