Acknowledging the "grave responsibility" and "explosive" challenges before him, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot was officially named the 21st chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces at a changing-of-the-guards ceremony on Monday, Feb 16.
Without mentioning specific threats like Hezbollah, Hamas, ISIS and Israel's "existential" threat Iran by name, Eisenkot dedicated much of his speech to the many forces targeting Israel.
"We are in the midst of a tense time rife with challenges. The Middle East is changing its face and is becoming unrecognizable. It is characterized by explosiveness and instability. The challenges of the time force us to be more determined, sophisticated, and act with sound judgment, more than ever," he said at the ceremony in Jerusalem.
Eisenkot, 54, replaced Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz who retired from the military after completing a four-year term as chief of staff, marking 38 years of IDF service.
Eisenkot joined the IDF ranks in 1978 as part of its elite Golani Brigade during the first Lebanon War, eventually becoming its deputy brigade commander. He also served under the late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and former Defense Minister Ehud Barak in 1999.
In 2003, he headed the Judea and Samaria division at the height of the intifada, when Jerusalem grappled with an onslaught of suicide bombings.
Most recently, Eisenkot served as Gantz's deputy chief of staff.
In a letter penned to IDF soldiers on Monday, Eisenkot warned them of the challenges that lie ahead.
"The challenges we face obligate us to take a sober view of reality, engage in honest self criticism, and carry out organizational and personal development for ongoing learning. We could be required to take difficult decisions, both operationally and organizationally," he said.
Officially stepping down, Gantz told Eisenkot at the ceremony, "I hand over to you, Gadi, my friend, this responsibility, which is strong and powerful."
The departing general acknowledged the tumult in the region as well, and grimly stated that another brush with violence is inevitable.
"Some of the combat was not reported in the media and won't be told for many years. The thin border between national responsibility and operational courage was crossed by our forces countless times, and with greater intensity in recent years," Gantz said.
The ceremony was a multi-stop affair, with Eisenkot and Gantz visiting the Western Wall for a joint prayer session followed by a reception at President Rueven Rivlin's home, while the official swearing in took place at IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv.
In an army largely run by Ashkenazi (European Jews) at the top level, the December announcement of Eisenkot's promotion drew praise for him being the first person of Moroccan descent to fill the senior position. (Defense News)