Reservists' letter opposes 'politicized missions' for IDF

Reservists letter oppos

right-wing rabbis and activists 248.88 (photo credit: )
right-wing rabbis and activists 248.88
(photo credit: )
Less than a month after new recruits waved a banner reading "Don't evacuate Homesh" during a military ceremony at the Western Wall, reservists from the Shimshon Battalion of the Kfir Infantry Brigade sent a letter to their commanders on Wednesday urging them to stop participating in what they called "politicized missions." The letter, signed by 25 officers and soldiers who served in the battalion, was sent to commander of the Samaria Brigade Col. Itzik Bar and commander of the Shimshon Battalion Lt.-Col. Zion Shenkar. Homesh was a settlement in northern Samaria that was evacuated during the disengagement from the Gaza Strip. "We want to restore the Shimshon Battalion to its days of glory and bravery," the reservists wrote in the letter. "The involvement of the commanders and soldiers in recent months in political whims by destroying Homesh in the Shomron and chasing after Jews as if they were the greatest terrorists, causes us great shame." The reservists expressed sympathy with the two soldiers who waved the anti-evacuation banner at the Kotel ceremony last month. Both soldiers were sentenced to 20 days in military prison and were kicked out of the battalion. The Shimshon Battalion mostly operates in the West Bank and has in recent months been stationed in northern Samaria. One of the signatories, St.-Sgt. (res.) Yediya Newman, said that even though he does not live in the West Bank and would likely not wave a banner during a military ceremony, he does sympathize with the soldiers who did. "I served in the battalion in the Gaza Strip and during the Second Lebanon War," he said. "I am embarrassed that today the battalion is involved in mostly operations against Jews and I hope that the command will come to its senses and restore the pride to the battalion's soldiers and reservists." On Saturday night, a reception is planned at a Jerusalem hall to honor the two soldiers - Aryeh Arbus and Ahiyah Ovadya - who waved the banner during last month's ceremony. Rabbis and other settler leaders are expected to attend the event. In response, the IDF Spokesperson's Office released a statement explaining that "the IDF is subordinate to the government in Israel and fulfills its directives. Reserve service is not volunteer but is done according to law. The IDF Spokesperson recommends that all sides leave the military, its commanders and soldiers out of the political debate." Also yesterday, a right-wing organization donated about NIS 40,000 as an expression of support to the families of the two reprimanded soldiers from the Shimshon battalion at a gathering in Jerusalem's Finjan restaurant. The money was raised mostly from an anonymous American donor by Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpe, head of the Headquarters for Saving the Nation and the Land of Israel. Also taking part in the event were MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Home), Rabbi Yisroel Ariel of the Temple Institute and veteran activist Baruch Marzel. Ruhama Arbus from Elon Moreh said her husband Aryeh did not originally want to enlist in the IDF because of his opposition to the Gaza disengagement. However, she said that she encouraged him to do so as long as his mission was solely the protection of Jews and did not require him to participate in the dismantling of settlements. The soldiers were awarded about NIS 1,000 for each day they were in prison. On Saturday night an additional meeting honoring them and expressing opposition to using the IDF to evacuate settlements will be attended by Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Arba-Hebron Dov Lior and Chabad affiliated Rabbi Yitzhak Ginzberg, president of the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva in Yitzhar.