Chief of Staff Lt.- Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi responded to criticism of the IDF hesder yeshivas program, saying "yeshiva students come to the IDF armed with faith and a strong desire to contribute."
Ashkenazi, speaking at the Modiin hesder yeshiva Sunday evening, added that yeshiva students have long been a significant force in the IDF command.
The hesder yeshiva program combines Torah study with shortened army service.
The IDF chief did not refer directly to the controversial remarks made by Colonel Aharon Haliva, commander of the Paratroopers Brigade, according to which the hesder yeshiva program "lacks values."
Haliva admitted that he discriminates against hesder soldiers under his command because they serve less time than their comrades.
Ashkenazi continued to say, "I saw (the hesder soldiers) in the alleyways of Gaza during Operation Cast Lead – filled with inner strength and a spirit that is characteristic of people who know where they came from and what we are fighting for. It is from this knowledge that they muster the strength to fight and win."
In a thinly-veiled reference to Haliva's remarks, the army chief concluded by saying, "My statements regarding the yeshivas are the best answer to what has been going on lately."
Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz, who spoke before Ashkenazi, said the hesder program "sometimes carries the entire IDF on its back, and if not the entire IDF then a significant part of it."
- Follow Ynetnews on Facebook