Have you ever attended a Shabbat afternoon lecture on the parsha at the home of a high-ranking officer in the army? A high-ranking officer who was a brigadier general? A brigadier general-lecturer who was a woman, a mother of three, a military court judge and president of the army high military court?
The lecture was fascinating as the lecturer was a Hebrew scholar who combined the parsha with a discussion of Jewish law.
This took place in a small religious community in Israel at the home of Brigadier General Rachel Tevet-Vizel.
Who is Brigadier General Rachel Tevet-Vizel? What are her origins?
Rachel’s grandmother was raised in a chassidic family in Poland. She was a strong woman named Bluma – a woman of vision, faith, and conviction.
It was the early 1930s, and one day Bluma’s husband was beaten by a band of young Nazis. That day Bluma decided her family must leave for Palestine. It was the only option in her mind: the Holy Land where they prayed daily to return to one day.
In Palestine, Bluma and her husband helped establish the community of Kiryat Ono, today a large Israeli city on the outskirts of Tel Aviv. As there was no synagogue in town, Bluma’s family opened their home for communal prayer gatherings. When her two daughters came of age, Bluma told them, “The time has come for you to go into the army. We have to protect [the land] ourselves. You cannot simply rely on others to do it. Although we are religious, this is our country and this is our time to protect it.”
With such family background, Rachel Tevet was inspired to volunteer for army service after graduating from a religious girls high school in 1981. Rachel began her Sherut Leumi in a development town elementary school, and, with officer training, advanced to become commander of the officer-training base.
Later Rachel returned to civilian life, and continued her education. She attended Tel Aviv University, and eventually earned a law degree. While pursuing a law practice, Rachel found time to get married and become a mother of three daughters.
But soon she found that there was something missing. “In Israel, it is not enough to be a lawyer,” she says. “To contribute to this country, you have to be a lawyer and something else.” She returned to the IDF as a military lawyer. In time, she became a military court judge, serving as president of the IDF high military court.
Today Rachel Tevet-Vizel is one of four highest-ranking female officers in the IDF, but the only one who gives Torah lessons in her home on Shabbat afternoons.Prof. Livia Bitton-Jackson