(photo credit: Channel 1)
A pro-settlement NGO has postponed an award ceremony scheduled for Sunday where it had intended to hand out medals to soldiers who refused to aid in the evacuation of two Jewish families from the Hebron marketplace on August 7.
The ceremony was to have taken place in the community center at the Beit Horon settlement, southwest of Ramallah.
The World Headquarters for Saving the Nation and the Land changed it plans after receiving criticism for the whole alternative awards idea, and for scheduling the ceremony to coincide with the official event awarding citations to soldiers who fought in the Second Lebanon War.
"Our ceremony does not mean to disrespect or undermine the IDF's ceremony, which was set for Sunday as well," the World Headquarters head, Rabbi Shalom Dovber Wolpo, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
"We simply want to show our sympathy and appreciation to these soldiers, who were strong enough to act in accordance with their conscience," he said. "These soldiers refused to help the government give away the property of murdered Jews, which their own family members were inhabiting. They were willing to be punished and they served time in a military prison. They deserve our sympathy for the desire to protect Israel's land and legacy."
Twelve Orthodox soldiers - including two squad commanders - were sentenced to 28 days in prison and were discharged from their combat units for refusing to participate in the evacuation.
At the alternative ceremony, the soldiers were to receive awards worth thousands of shekels, courtesy of US Jewish donors who, according to Dovber Wolpo, initiated the idea.
When Beit Horon's secretary, Yair Chodziesen, found out about the planned alternative ceremony, he contacted Rabbi Micha Peled, a member of the World Headquarters for Saving the Nation and the Land and a resident of the settlement, and told him it was inappropriate to hold the event simultaneously with the IDF's ceremony.
"Rabbi Peled wasn't aware of this embarrassment, either. He suggested the event should take place in his own home on a different occasion," said Chodziesen.
"It does not seem right for Beit Horon to hold this ceremony at all," said Chodziesen. In any case, it would not take place in one of the settlement's public buildings, he said, adding that residents could do whatever they deemed appropriate in their own homes, so long as it did not hurt anyone.
Dovber Wolpo said in a statement that the ceremony's new date and location would be published soon.