Paratroopers of the Israeli Air Force performed their first jump after participating in a skydiving course through the military. The soldiers completed a course at the Tel Nof IDF base which is located in Rehovot, Israel. The skydive was part of the group’s acceptance into the service of the 202 Battalion of the Paratrooper’s Brigade. The skydive was completed on Tuesday, September 12, 2017. Previously, in July, another group completed a course as well.
All five were Haredi—a subdivision of Judaism that some call more “orthodox” or “ultra-orthodox” than other parts of the religion. This has been the third recruiting period of the company since it came into existence. The course met all the requirements of the Haredi soldier’s religion—men and women were separated, they were allowed to eat the required food and serve their country without compromising their lifestyle.
Rabbis for the Netzah Yehuda Foundation nearby watched the paratrooper group that went up in July. The rabbis approved of the soldiers training and viewed the experience of the paratroopers as “going up” spiritually.
“With all the grueling training the soldiers underwent, they kept their strict prayer schedule and Torah study,” the Rabbis said. “It goes without saying, of course, that the new platoon observes Halacha strictly. They are busy with what is called a ‘drop’ from the sky, but we see them as actually ‘going up’ spiritually.”
The paratroopers are prepared to jump in a variety of circumstances, ranging from 1,200 feet to 12,000 feet.
The soldiers in the unit will serve a total of 32 months. Two years of this time period are in the military service and eight of these months will be spent in various studies taking place afterward.
The number of Haredi soldiers joining the Paratrooper brigade has increased in recent years. In August 2016, a total of 41 Haredi soldiers joined. The previous recruiting time period, a total of 35 troopers joined. According to data released from the military, there are around 50,000 ultra-Orthodox men in the Israeli military. An aim to increase members of the ultra-Orthodox sect have been made.
Back in 2013, Brigade Commander Col. Eliezer Toledano described the experience paratroopers have when preparing to overcome the fear of jumping out of a plane. “Every paratrooper preparing to leap from a plane must overcome fear,” Toledano said. “It’s natural to feel fear, but paratroopers leave fear behind them. We are the only ones who are tested in the face of fear, even during training.”
Explaining the importance of the exercise, Toledano said, “We proved that at any given moment the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] can take many soldiers and drop them deep into enemy territory in a matter of moments. We have the ability to go anywhere we say we will go.”
Deputy Brigade Commander Lt. Col. Itamar Ben-Haim talked about the experience of jumping out of a plane and related it to the importance of the unit. “There’s a risk that you will be cut off from the Brigade and won’t find your friends on the ground,” Ben-Haim said. “It’s possible that you will end up fighting with soldiers who are not from your platoon, so we educate commanders in spatial understanding and in taking initiative.”
During the jump, paratroopers land with all of the equipment they would have on the battlefield. Hadar Ben Simon, a past participant in the exercise, summed up the experience stating, “The best part of an experience like this is the contrast between the noise of the aircraft before you jump, and the quiet after the parachute opens.”