police settler violence 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
High school students in Gush Etzion affirmed their feelings last Thursday that
the IDF is “their army” and that the State of Israel is “their country,” but
leaders of the settlement bloc were critical of IDF officials who refused to
take part in an evening of discussion that was intended to diffuse tensions
between the settler community and security forces.
The evening, titled
“From Protest to Clash,” was initiated by Efrat Mayor Oded Revivi following
clashes last month between settlers and IDF forces in the Jordan Valley and the
Samaria region. For three hours, about 250 teenagers, educators and community
members listened to speeches, participated in roundtable discussions and
informal conversations about the IDF’s place in settlement life and the
settlers’ place in the army.
Revivi, a brigadier-general in the reserves,
said the evening was crucial because of the widespread feeling among
non-religious Israelis that all settlers support so-called “price-tag” attacks
on IDF soldiers or Arab targets.
“Anybody who could even think about
raising a hand against an IDF soldier fails to understand what a miracle it is
that we live here, that we have a sovereign Jewish nation in the Land of
Israel,” Revivi said.
Revivi said the evening was a success because it
opened a serious discussion about a sore issue for many settlers. But he added
that the event was incomplete because the army and “other groups” refused to
attend. He declined to say which “other groups” had been invited to the
“I don’t know what sort of message the army thinks it is
sending to our community by refusing to participate in a dialogue with us, and
particularly with our young people. The army would do well to understand that
although the IDF is entrusted with military command, it is not the IDF’s
army. It is all of our army,” said Revivi.
Revivi also noted that
the event took place after the Orthodox community completed the Tenth of Tevet
fast, and said the timing was not coincidental.
“By choosing this date,
the message we’re trying to get across is clear: We – and by “we” I mean all
sectors of Israeli society - if we don’t realize that, for all our differences,
we are all family, that we are all in this together, we could find ourselves in
a similar situation today, God forbid,” he said.
The event was attended
by high school and post-high school students from around Israel, including a
strong contingent of boys without kippot on their heads and girls dressed in
tight jeans instead of the long skirts favored by many young women in the
national-religious sector. Aside from Revivi, the list of speakers included Rabbi
Avichai Ronsky, a former IDF chief rabbi; Uzi Dayan, Dr. Gabi Avital, the
chairman of Professors for a Strong Israel and an former chief scientist at the
Education Ministry; and Ra'aya Ben- David, a 12th-grade student at the Neve Chana
girls high school in Gush Etzion. The speeches were followed by roundtable
discussions facilitated by teachers, rabbis and other public figures from the
Six-and-a-half years after Israel pulled
out of the Gaza Strip, settlement leaders continue to talk about the
disengagement as a watershed moment in the downward spiral between the
national-religious community and the IDF, but most of the young people who
agreed to be interviewed for this story said the event does not play a
significant role in their consciousness. Most said they barely remembered the
trauma of the pullout and spoke strongly in favor of national service and
against people who attack soldiers.
“If things aren’t perfect, I think
about what I contribute in order to make things better,” said
“Think about how you react when you get angry. Do you react when you are angry
and all emotional, or do you stop, take a deep breath and try to make it better?" she asked.
other teenagers said their daily experiences in the settlements contributed to
mixed feelings about the army and the state.
“On one hand, I know the IDF
is there to protect me, but outside my house in Tekoa, we can see Arabs building
all the time, but the army won’t do anything about it. But if we build one tiny
little house without a permit, the army is there the next day to tear it down.
Many times it feels like the army is against me, not protecting me,” said one
17- year-old who only identified himself by his nickname, Migdo.
said he “rejects” people who attack the army, but he added that he can
understand where those people are coming from.
“We’re always portrayed as
the enemy, as those crazy settlers who had to go out and live in Judea and
Samaria. The army has come so many times to destroy so many homes – how long can
you expect people to sit back and be silent?”