For those who are home, and for those who are on the way. For those who support the historic and just return of the land of Israel to its people, forever loyal to their inheritance, and its restoration.
Unit Oketz(sting), is the independent K-9 special forces unit, founded in 1939 as part of the Haganah, within the Israel Defense Forces. The unit specialises in training and handling dogs for military applications.
Originally, Oketz trained dogs to attack kidnappers, but training has become more specialised, and now the K-9 unit. Each dog is now trained to have a particular speciality. Attack dogs are trained to operate in urban areas, as well as in rural, bushy areas (they were used extensively in Lebanon).
Dogs are trained as tracking and chasing dogs, for manhunts and detecting breaches at the borders. Dogs are also trained as weapons and ammunition dogs, to search for guns and munitions, as explosive dogs, to sniff out hidden explosives and as search and rescue dogs, to find people in collapsed buildings.
See also: Dogs of War: The life's work of Prof. Rudolphina Menzel, a world-renowned trainer and ardent Zionist.
Unit Oketz operators are often assigned to other units in the case of a particular need for their specialist skills, such as in the extraction of terrorists from fortified buildings. Though not affiliated with the IDF Paratroopers Brigade, Unit Oketz operators wear the same distinctive red berets and the unit's graduation ceremony is held at the Paratroopers headquarters. However, in order to join Oketz, the recruitee must choose Kfir Infantry Brigade as first priority in the request form and then pass through trials.
For a long time, we kept the unit's existence in the background so as not to offend the survivors of the Holocaust who will never forget the images of Nazi soldiers unleashing their attack dogs."
These days however, Oketz is one of the most highly-regarded of the army's units and few infantry commanders would even think about embarking on a mission without the support of a soldier from Oketz and his four-legged companion.
"Since 2002, soldiers and dogs from Oketz have been able to prevent at least 200 suicide attacks in the central region" of Israel
Any dog who loses its life in the line of duty is entitled to a full military funeral.
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I visited Hevron in November 2000 after the outbreak of the Rosh Hashanah War to see what could be done to assist in the face of the growing daily attacks on the community. After returning to work for the community in the summer of 2001, a bond and a love was forged that grows to this day. My wife Melody and I merited to be married at Ma'arat HaMachpela and now host visitors from throughout the world every Shabbat as well as during the week. Our goal, "Time to come Home!"