3 YBA Grads Received the President's IDF Citation for Excellence on Yom Ha'atzmaut

Lt. Daniela Hangal
Lt. Daniela Hangal, graduate of UBA Tzfira

Lt. Daniela Hangal (22), a graduate of UBA Tzfira at Moshav Tzafaria, was the third graduate of the YBA educational network to be awarded the IDF Citation for Excellence by President Reuven Rivlin in the Yom Haatzmaut ceremony this year.

The other two were Lt. Shaked Ben-Shoshan, a graduate of UBA Segula in Kiryat Motzkin and Cpl.Ori Cohen, a graduate of YBA Hadarom in Rehovot. 

Lt. Daniela Hangal has been serving in the IDF for the past three and a half years. She is a company commander in the IDF Home Front Command's Tabor Brigade - the army's emergency search and rescue unit.

"In twelfth grade, when the time came to choose between IDF service or non-military National Service, most of the girls chose National Service for religious reasons. But I always knew that I wanted to serve in the army,' said Daniela. "It was important to me to do something substantial in the army. I always imagined myself in uniform."

Substantial indeed! Lt. Daniela is the commanding officer of a combat unit made up of mainly male soldiers. "I trained these soldiers in boot camp and in their search and rescue course, and now I am their commander. I am like their Mother and Father. I have to worry about the personal problems of each of them, no matter how small. Still, I don't let my gender interfere with my duties. If any of my soldiers thought it was weird having a female company commander, they quickly learned that there is no difference at all."

Hangal's advice for other religious girls thinking about joining the army: "In the final analysis, if you have the motivation and drive to do something significant to contribute to Israel, and you love the Land of Israel, you can go far in the army. I think that I am living proof of that."

Lt. Shaked Ben-Shoshan, graduate of UBA Segula
UBA Segula graduate,
Lt. Shaked Ben-Shoshan
Another of the 120soldiers  this year was Lt. Shaked Ben-Shoshan (22), from Kiryat Bialik and a graduate of Ulpanat Bnei Akiva Segula in Kiryat Motzkin.

Shaked serves in the physically challenging IDF Field Intelligence Unit. 
IDF Field Intelligence soldiers in full field camouflage
"Our job is to sit on the border with Egypt and Jordan and collect intelligence from the field. It involves laying in the open for many hours at a time under the highest level of field camouflage, in order to gather the most accurate information possible to protect our borders," Shaked explained.

The IDF Spokesman's Office related that Shaked was chosen for the honor due to the long record of citations of excellence she has earned from her commanding officers throughout her army career. "I was surprised to be chosen," she said, "because most of the soldiers chosen had fought in last summer's Operation Protective Edge or for an exceptional act of bravery. I didn't participate in the operation, so I didn't expect to be chosen."

Kiryat Bialik Mayor Eli Dokorski called Shaked to congratulate her on being chosen and thanked her for the honor she brought to the city of Kiryat Bialik, saying that she was "an exemplary and significant product of religious Zionism, imbued with a sense of purpose and determination."

Shaked is in line to be promoted to the Deputy Commander of her unit in August. YBA and AFYBA salute you, Shaked!

Cpl. Ori Cohen with his parents
Cpl. Ori Cohen, 20, from Rehovot, was also among the 120 Israeli soldiers to be honored for excellence at the annual Independence Day ceremony at the President's Residence on Yom Haatzmaut. Cohen was born with cerebral palsy and fought hard to be accepted as a volunteer in the Israel Defense Forces.

For Cohen, the youngest son of Sigal and Yitzhak Cohen and brother to Mor, 27, and Shir, 24, reaching this moment was a struggle.

"This honor belongs above all to my friends in the army and to my commanders, who accept me as an equal," he said, "They don't make any assumptions, they simply listen and help me. I am very excited, of course. I was surprised to be receiving this honor, but it seems that my work was recognized by my superiors and they appreciate me, so I am happy."

Cohen serves as a network administrator at the computer support center in the GOC's C41 Corps. His job is to solve network problems. "I did not have prior knowledge, but I learned on the job," he said.

His parents take him to and from his base, where he gets around using a walker or a wheelchair.
"My parents' and my family's devotion pushed me forward, and this is the right opportunity to thank them," Cohen said.

"Another thing that helped me make the decision to serve and to contribute were my studies at the yeshiva of Rabbi Haim Drukman [the head of the YBA educational network and Bnei Akiva youth movement]. I am proud to be fulfilling not only my civic duty, but also my religious and national duties, as that is an important value in the Torah."

According to Cohen, his "minor disability" does not stop him from excelling at his work in the army. "I am not different, despite the wheelchair," he said. "I am a regular person in every way, and even in the moments when I am alone and I think about it, I do not feel different. I don't think about the difficulties for a even a minute.

"I came to the base every day, even during Operation Protective Edge, when there were sirens and rockets. I am very happy with my job, and lately, I have been thinking quite a bit about continuing to serve in the army [in the long term]. "It was important to me to join the army, since that is a value I was raised with. Everyone in my family served, and I knew that I too would be drafted, despite the situation."

"At both my high school yeshiva [YBA Hadarom, Rechovot] and army preparatory yeshiva [YBA Mechinat Kiryat Malachi], I was taught to love our country, and part of that means contributing and serving in the IDF. I taught the same thing to my groups during the two years that I was a Bnei Akiva youth leader. It wasn't easy, but I made my dream come true. I never had any doubt that I would be in the army."

IDF Military Intelligence turns to YBA for Cyber Security Unit recruits

In today's Internet dominated world, Cyber Security has become the IDF's highest priority. The IDF Signal Corps Unit 8-200, which is charged with the task of Military Intelligence, has grown to become the  the largest unit in the army, and is given first priority (above all combat units) in choosing the most appropriate inductees,

In its continuing efforts to expand the pool of potential manpower for the highly specialized Cyber Security unit within Unit 8-200, the Defense Ministry has turned to YBA to launch yet another pilot project - this time in conjunction with six YBA network ulpanot (girl's high schools) and the Bat Ami National Service Organization (Sherut Leumi).

The program will be administered by the Israel Center for Excellence in Science and Cyber Technology. Eldad Cohen, the center's director explains: "The participating students will undergo two years of special training designed to meet the needs of the Military Intelligence during the 11th and 12th grades. Those girls who successfully complete the program will be placed in operational positions in Unit 8-200 in the framework of Sherut Leumi, instead of as IDF inductees.

General Director of YBA, Rabbi Beni Nachtailer, added: "This program will allow religious girls the oportunity to serve the state in a very significant and challenging volunteer capacity within the defense establishment following graduation."

The participating YBA network ulpanot  include: Amana, Kfar Saba; Yeshurun, Petach Tikvah; Orot Modiin, Modiin; Tzfira, Tzafariya, Chen Bamidbar, Beer Sheva; and Hashomron, Elkana.

Alumna Profile: Col. Rachel Tevet-Weisel, IDF Chief-of-Staff Adviser on Women's Issues

Col. Rachel Tevet-Weisel

When Col. Rachel Tevet-Weisel  graduated Ulpanat Bnei Akiva Tzfira in 1981 it was clear to her that she was going to enlist in the IDF rather than taking the more conventional route of volunteering in the National Service (Sherut Leumi) for one or two years. "In those days, she recalls, "it was almost unheard of for a girl from the ulpana to enlist in the army,"

She began her army career as a soldier/teacher in a development town elementary school. From there she advanced to officer training, eventually rising to become the commander of the officer training base. After her discharge from the IDF she earned a law degree, and re-enlisted after five years, this time as a military lawyer, and continued to earn promotions, eventually becoming a military court judge and President of the IDF high military court.

Col. Tevet-Weisel notes that much has changed in the IDF since the time when she first enlisted. "The main reason religious girls preferred not enlisting in the army back then was to avoid being subjected to sexual harassment. Today, the army has a zero-tolerance policy regarding both verbal and physical sexual harassment." A recent survey revealed that 12.5% of female soldiers experienced some form of sexual harassment during their service. "We are still not where I would like the army to be in that regard," says Tevet-Weisel, "but it is a far cry from what was once the norm in the army."

Another survey revealed that 85% of religious female soldiers felt that their level of religious observance remained the same or improved during the period of their service in the IDF, Tevet-Weisel credits the IDF's policy changes and the support of non-profit organizations such as "Alumah" for making it easier for religious girls to do a significant service in the IDF. As a result, the number of religious girls enlisting has risen from 935 in 2010 to 1,616 in 2013.

The Yeshivot Bnei Akiva educational network continues to respect the Israel Chief Rabbi's ruling directing girls to volunteer for Sherut Leumi rather than enlisting in the IDF. But for those ulpana girls who feel compelled to do a significant service in the army, the trends that Col. Tevet-Weisel is leading in the army are welcome news.