“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven…A time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 8)
A young Chabad man, known only as Y. for security reasons, is about to enlist in the IAF’s prestigious flight school. The program is known for its selectivity and rigour, and many participants drop out over its three years. This will not deter Y, however, as being an Israeli Air Force pilot has been his childhood dream.
Y. is the son of a Chabad shaliach, or ambassadorial rabbi, from the Shefela region of Israel. Although they wished for him to stay in Yeshiva, his family members are very supportive of his decision. They are quick to point out, however, that this is not the route they recommend for all Haredi — or even Chabad — youth: “We need both soldiers and Torah students to protect Israel,” his father said. Still, he expressed his pride at his son’s achievements thus far.
This is not the first Haredi foray into the IAF; through the Blue Dawn program, designed to train Haredi men in technical areas, enabling them to work in administrative positions, some 200 men have joined the air force. In 2008, a year after the project’s establishment, the IAF commented that these men show the highest degree of motivation in their service, with 53% expressing a willingness to extend their service or become officers.
In the meantime, Y. is preparing for his service. He trained at the Torah Leadership Academy, a pre-army preparatory program for Haredim and the first of its kind. Now, he is spending his time before his enlistment studying Torah. His stated goal: “To show that being an observant Jew is not in contradiction with serving in the IDF’s elite units. One can contribute in this manner, too.”