Chagai Eldar is one of the owners of the Aviv Dairy in
Netivot (which has the hechsher of the BaDaTz of
Shearis Yisroel). Last week, Eldar sent a sharp letter to
his IDF commanding officer as well as to the upper echelons
of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
We met Eldar a day after he had completed his reserve duty
as a troop commander in a select unit that was involved in
skirmishes with the Palestinians in the Ramallah area, just
after he sent his famous letter. The meeting with Eldar, who
is a major in the army and a resident of Kfar Maimon, took
place at the dairy.
In the letter, addressed to the commander of Unit 188 of the
Tank Force, he writes: "The troop reconnaissance unit has
currently completed its service in the Judea and Shomron
area. During that period, I witnessed a number of events in
which the IDF and the commanders functioned in a manner
which totally negated my conscience and affected my ability
to continue to accept commands from these officers.
"Fundamental values of not leaving the wounded in the
battlefield, and of resolve, courage and zeal for one's
mission are apparently not part of their approach. I can't
look my soldiers in the eye and tell them with certainty
that they will be backed by the commanding ranks. It seems
as if these values are dependent on political
considerations. You know how much effort I have made over
the past few years to build this select unit. Therefore,
leaving the troop is very difficult for me. Nonetheless, I
cannot remain silent."
At the end of the letter, Eldar asks to be released from his
duties and to return his officer's insignia, hoping that
this unprecedented step will arouse the system to change.
In a discussion with Yated Ne'eman, Eldar says that
the course that led him to write this letter began even
before he started his reserves stint. He saw what was taking
place at Kever Yosef in Shechem where a border guard
policeman bled to death because he wasn't rescued. "This
incident had a tremendous impact on me," Eldar said.
He stresses that at that stage, on the eve of his call-up to
the reserves, he decided not to take any measures so that
his unit would not be left without its commander. However,
in his service he encountered similar occurrences, this time
with civilians on a trip near Har Eival. "This story caused
me a lot of tension, and I decided that I couldn't remain
silent any longer." He says that his unit did not
participate in the rescue of the hikers, even though he and
his soldiers were on the site. This was due to the army's
private reasons, which he refuses to enumerate.
Eldar stresses that the army could have saved the victims at
Har Eival and that if political considerations are
erroneously included in military decisions, he is no longer
willing to be a partner to them. "These two incidents shook
me up, and I realized that the bottom line was the fact that
we do not evacuate our injured soldiers. I had taught my
soldiers to believe in values which I think are very
important: values such as integrity in the use of arms and
evacuation of the injured. From the point of view of my
conscience, and as the commander of such a unit, I cannot
accept such a situation. I can't look my soldiers in the
eye, knowing that they might not receive full backing in the
event of such a situation."
Eldar relates that on the last day of his reserve service,
he sat with the soldiers in his combat troop to summarize
their service, and one of them asked, "Chagai, I want to
know one thing. If I had been injured at Kever Yosef, would
you have come to rescue me or would you have left me on the
field?" I replied that in our unit this would not have
happened, and we would have overturned worlds in order to
rescue him. But today, am I 100% at peace with that answer?
No. There is no doubt that today, the situation constitutes
a great crisis for the fighters.
He said that when he presented the letter to the unit
commander he held a lengthy discussion with him. At that
stage, he did not receive any reaction from the Chief of
Staff nor from the general headquarters nor from the
commander of Division 30 in which he serves.
Chagai Eldar said: "It is inconceivable that parents who
send their children to the army might have to rely on Jibril
Rajoub to rescue their children if they are injured." He
stressed that he wasn't motivated by political
considerations, saying: "I am not a political man. I am a
businessman, who works and earns a livelihood. But if the
step I took causes the army to remove its gloves and solve
these genuine problems, it will have been worth it."
Eldar says that since his letter became known in the media,
he has been swamped by thousands of phone calls identifying
with his step. Top ranking officers in his unit think highly
of him as a commander and soldier. They admire him even
though he is a religious Jew (and religious Jews do not
generally merit admiration in the battle over top ranking
positions in the IDF).