Decorated religious soldier not promoted, prompting claims of bias

Brig-Gen. Ofer Winter, a decorated soldier, was not included on the IDF promotions list, eliciting claims that there seems to be a glass ceiling for religious army commanders.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Brigadier General Ofer Winter, a religious, decorated soldier whose leadership skills in the field have been widely praised, was again left off the new IDF promotions list Monday, and some lawmakers are objecting.

Winter gained notoriety during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 when a letter of encouragement that he sent to his soldiers as Givati Brigade commander went public. In it, he used religious terminology by saying they were chosen by history to fight “the terrorist Gazan enemy that curses, reviles and insults the God of Israel’s forces.”

The mainstream media excoriated him for putting his religious beliefs where they allegedly did not belong, and since then, he was promoted once – to the ranks of Brigadier General. He was not appointed to a combat command on a divisional level, which is the army’s regular route for further promotion.

A former commander of the elite Duvdevan counterterrorism unit, Winter serves as head of Central Command headquarters.

MK Bezalel Smotrich (Jewish Home) strongly criticized the chief of staff’s decision not to make Winter a division commander.

“If I were Ofer Winter I would take off my uniform and go to civilian life,” he said. “A system that does not know how to appreciate him is not worthy of him.”

As reported on Army Radio, 40% of those finishing officer training and 50% of infantry brigade commanders are religious Jews. However, there are no religious combat division heads, and not a single general in the IDF wears a kippa.

“With a rich record of command in the field and operational achievements, Winter should have been promoted to senior command in the IDF. The loss is entirely ours,” MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli stated.

An IDF source told Ynet that “the noise made around Brig. Gen. Winter by one camp or another, just as his statements during Protective Edge, neither helped or hurt in the decision made by the Chief of Staff. There is no difference between him and [the others] who were left outside [the promotions list]. All are highly valued and their contribution is well-known.”

Winter reportedly said he will retire from the military if he is not promoted.