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How IDF chief shapes Israeli military

The decision by IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot not to promote Brig. Gen. Ofer Winter has sparked fury within the national religious stream.
An Israeli soldier prays by a tank at an Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) staging area in the central Gaza border November 21, 2012.  Israeli air strikes shook the Gaza Strip and Palestinian rockets struck across the border as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held talks in Jerusalem in the early hours of Wednesday, seeking a truce that can hold back Israel's ground troops.  REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis (ISRAEL - Tags: CONFLICT CIVIL UNREST MILITARY RELIGION) - GM1E8BL143K01
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Brig. Gen. Ofer Winter is the darling of Religious Zionists in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). A combat officer, he has made his way up the IDF ladder in the toughest units, on the hottest military fronts and through the IDF’s most dangerous operations in the last decade. In recent years, Winter has become a symbol of the Zionist religious stream that has taken the military by storm in every branch — i.e., land, air and sea.

The number of Religious Zionists in the army’s elite units, infantry and armored units is much greater than their percentage of the population. According to Israel’s Bureau of Statistics, 11% of Israeli Jews aged 20 and above self-identify as “religious.” About 40% of the soldiers who had completed the IDF’s officer training course as of 2017 were from the Zionist religious population. Even in the upper echelons, such as the infantry divisions, many of the commanding officers belong to this stream. There are not, however, brigadier generals from the Religious Zionist sector on the next highest rung of the IDF ladder, such as commanders of infantry divisions, the most prestigious commanding roles in the army. This statistic infuriates the national-religious Jews.

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