Defense Ministry won't build memorial to fallen troops from Judea, Samaria.
By TOVAH LAZAROFF
After her son, St.-Sgt. Uri Biton, 21, was killed in Lebanon in 1997, his mother found a worn, folded-up note in his wallet with a scribbled motto which read: "Give your utmost for the nation."
This Remembrance Day, his mother Levana said that she and the families of 13 other soldiers from Samaria who were killed in battle discovered the hard way that the Defense Ministry and the government do not operate under that same creed.
This month, the Defense Ministry's Commemoration Committee refused a request by the Samaria Regional Council to fund a memorial park and monument for the 14 soldiers and 44 other victims from Samaria who have been killed in battle or terror attacks.
In a letter it sent the council, the committee stated that a 1998 law prevented it from funding such projects in Judea and Samaria. It added that it would consider funding such a project within areas in Israel that did fall under its jurisdiction. Both council spokeswoman Ahuva Shilo and Levana said the response was "outrageous."
Spokesman for the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip Yishai Hollender added that to the best of his knowledge, there was no public monument to fallen soldiers in all of the West Bank, even though some 80 soldiers from the area had been killed by the enemy since 1982.
The government, however, did fund one memorial to fallen soldiers in the Jordan Valley in the late 1970s, Shilo said.
Levana said that a memorial to her son elsewhere in the country would not have the same impact for her as one that was close to home. Her son had lived in their Samaria settlement of Yakir since he was five, said Levana. "It is the home he knew and it is where we want to remember him," said Levana.
When he signed up for the army, no one minded that he was from Samaria, said Levana. "So why should the army discriminate against him and the others now that they are dead, just because they lived beyond the Green Line?" she asked.
"If he had come from Tel Aviv, this would not be a problem," said Levana, the mother of four other boys. She said she had one son in the army now and another two who had served. Uri, she said, was her oldest.
On Sunday evening the family planned to hold a remembrance ceremony for Uri in Yakir. There is also a small private park in Yakir named for him. But it does not have the same impact as the larger memorial park the council wants to build, where it would hold educational events for students and visitors from around the country, said Levana.
MK Uri Ariel (National Union) on Sunday said that he was planning to introduce a bill in the Knesset to change the law so that families could erect memorials to fallen soldiers near their homes.
"It's scandalous to differentiate between one person's blood and another," Ariel said. "Just as the Defense Ministry knows how to draft settlers into the army, so it should know how to commemorate them after they have been killed."
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