Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

24 Cheshvan 5761 - November 22, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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"If I Had Been Injured at Kever Yosef, Would You Have Rescued Me?"
by Yated Ne'eman Staff

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).


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