Monday, February 20, 2012

Shine - Good old Golani values

Dr. Haim Shine..
Israel Hayom..
20 February '12..

The commander of the Israel Defense Forces’ Golani Brigade is concerned by the homogeny of the soldiers under his command: Many of them are religious. According to media reports, recent efforts to dilute the concentration of religious soldiers in Golani have included the enlistment of kibbutz members to the unit.

Golani is one of the IDF’s most unique and glorious brigades. It was established in 1948, amid the battles of the War of Independence, and has since taken a leading and significant role in every consequent war and every offensive between wars.

During the War of Independence, the Golani Brigade fought against the armies of Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt in the north as well as the south. During the 1967 Six-Day War, the brigade stormed Syrian strongholds in the Golan Heights. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Golani took part in bloody battles on Mount Hermon. Courageous heroes from among the Golani ranks are buried in military cemeteries across the country.

Golani soldiers wear a brown beret bearing the symbol of the infantry corps and black boots. The brigade’s symbol is the thick-trunked olive tree with deep roots and impressive branches - a tree that represents more than anything our grip on the soil of our homeland after 2,000 years in exile. The olive tree is one of the seven species with which Israel has been blessed, and its oil was used to light the Temple menorah.

In its first years in existence, many members of the brigade were sons of pre-state agricultural laborers who contributed immeasurably to the establishment of Israel and to its inhabitants. As the years progressed, the sons of the pre-state elites began joining the more prestigious military units – such as the paratroopers and commando units – and were replaced in Golani by the “second Israel” – sons of new immigrants, especially of Middle Eastern descent.

The brigade became a melting pot of new Israelis, with all the problems that accompany absorption in a new country and efforts to integrate into a new society.

The Golani Brigade then lost some of its prestige. Israel, which sometimes suffers from memory problems, forgot the brigade’s immense contribution during its many wars. The media put the elite units on a pedestal and pushed aside the field units, which deal with thankless day-to-day security, without the sparks of fire and glory. Among IDF soldiers and many of Israel’s citizens, Golani became synonymous with a lack of discipline and amateurish fighting.

Recently, however, some of the brigade’s old glory has been restored. The marginal unit became well-trained, disciplined, wonderfully professional and, most important, desirable for new recruits. The brigade once again assumed its position as a leader in Israel’s defense efforts. It is now included in every planned operation.

There are those who say the religious soldiers and commanders that joined the brigade in recent years helped turn it around. Soldiers coming from hesder yeshivas (in which mandatory military service in incorporated along with Torah study) and pre-military academies are manning the brigade’s junior and senior command hierarchy. A national-religious kippah has been placed atop the Golani olive tree.

The religious soldiers are motivated, filled with a sense of mission. This has taken them to exemplary achievements – proving unequivocally that an ideological and determined minority can inspire an entire brigade, and even an entire army, to achieve great things. It’s all a question of leadership, values and vision.

The brigade commander is now seeking to alter the character of the unit and remove the religious label that has been affixed to it. I hope he succeeds because the right to serve in the military belongs to all Israelis. Unfortunately, many among us have distanced themselves from those good old values that have guided us for years up the hill of victory and self-fulfillment.


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