Ofer Winter

In Israel’s army, more officers now religious. What that means.

The percentage of officer cadets who are religious has grown 10-fold since the early 1990s. Among secular Israelis, that’s being met with a mix of respect, and concern.

By Christa Case Bryant, The Christian Science Monitor, April 17, 2015

In the early 1990s, ... Orthodox men accounted for 2.5 percent of graduates of infantry officer training courses; since then, it’s grown to more than 25 percent... In some combat units, they make up as much as 50 percent of new officers – roughly quadruple their share of Israel’s population. The upward trend, coupled with a parallel decline in the number of combat soldiers and officers coming from secular families, is dramatically changing the face of the IDF. Read entire article

Alumni Profile: Col.Ofer Winter, IDF Givati Brigade Commander

IDF Col. Ofer Winter
The commander of the IDF Givati Brigade, Col. Ofer Winter, inadvertently created a tempest in the Israeli press when he wrote a letter to his infantry soldiers on the eve of their entering combat in the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge.

Col, Winter, is a graduate of the IDF military academy high school attached to YBA Or Etzion at Merkaz Shapira. He quoted traditional Jewish prayers in his letter meant to strengthen the spirit of his soldiers' before going into battle.

However, the religious Zionist tone of his words sparked anger among several secular journalists reporting on the war, who questioned the legitimacy of portraying the military operation as a religious war.

“Anyone who attacked me for the letter apparently has only seen weapons in pictures, was never in combat, and doesn't know what fighting spirit is,” he said and revealed that before going into action his custom was to recite the blessing with which the ancient Israelite priests would bless the army before it went to war.
“When a person is in a life-threatening situation he connects with his deepest internal truths, and when that happens, even the biggest atheist meets God,” he said, claiming that soldiers see so many miracles that “it is hard not to believe [in God]."
Read the Jerusalem Post article about Col Ofer Winter