Events surrounding the confrontation on Tuesday between activists and soldiers and police over the eviction of two families from their homes in Hevron's Shalhevet neighborhood elicited passionate reactions from various sides. In particular, many official and unofficial statements were issued regarding Monday's refusal by soldiers in the Duchifat Battalion to carry out orders related to the evictions.
"This struggle will continue, and we will yet return."
Noam Arnon, a spokesperson for the Jewish community in Hevron, told Arutz Sheva Radio that the residents of Hevron and their supporters fought an intense battle to prevent the evictions.
In a statement to the press, Hevron community representatives said, "3,000 soldiers and policemen attempted to remove two families and dozens of youths from Jewish property, which they are now demolishing. This struggle will continue, and we will yet return. We displayed great responsibility - more than that displayed by the Defense Minister - and we demand the fulfillment of the agreement [allowing residents to stay in the Shalhevet neighborhood] and the return of Jews to the Jewish community of Hevron."
In addition, Hevron residents expressed shock at the property demolitions, as they thought the security forces were tasked with evicting the residents, not destroying their property. During its post-eviction operations, the IDF demolished a synagogue built in memory of Shalhevet Pass, the ten-month-old girl who was shot by a PA Arab sniper at the start of the Oslo War. The synagogue has been a focal point of daily prayer, as well as home to a yeshiva whose students serve as a counter-terror first-response team in Hevron.
In his statement following the completion of the evictions, the Hevron District Police Chief Menashe Avshalom Peled said that the operation was carried out slowly to avoid injuries as much as possible. "We instructed the police officers to behave with restraint and patience, and, where necessary, also with determination," Major-General Peled said. He went on to confirm statements by Hevron activists that protesters behaved responsibly: "To my relief, we did not encounter any seriously violent outbursts."
Nadia Matar of the Women in Green movement managed to avoid arrest in Hevron, despite house-to-house searches being carried out to locate and apprehend her for leading the struggle against the forced eviction. She reportedly left Hevron disguised as a pregnant Hareidi-religious woman, as photos of her had been dispatched to security forces.
"The struggle began at 4:00 am and lasted six hours - for two homes," Matar told Arutz Sheva Radio. "If we had held out in this determined a manner for every two houses in Gush Katif, the expulsion would not have happened. Today was an incredible rectification of the mistakes of Gush Katif."
Spokespersons for the far-left Peace Now organization saw things differently.
Spokespersons for the far-left Peace Now organization saw things differently and called for further evictions of Jews from their Hevron homes. "The eviction of the two families this morning is just the tip of the iceberg," according to Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer. "There are dozens of buildings in the city in which settlers have squatted, with eviction orders issued against them. [The evictions] should be executed immediately."
Reactions to IDF Eviction Refusers
A group of soldiers from the Duchifat counter-terror battaltion, including at least two squad commanders, refused or avoided orders they received on Monday morning to secure a road leading to Hevron ahead of the planned forced evictions. An IDF spokesperson said that only 12 soldiers refused orders outright, but reports from the field indicated that a total of almost 30 soldiers said that they would not actively carry out the relevant orders.
Tzfat Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the son of former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, declared his unequivocal support for the refusal of IDF soldiers to take part in the eviction of Jews from Hevron. Rabbi Eliyahu told Army Radio that he supported the ruling by Rabbi Dov Lior of Kiryat Arba.
"The evil and corrupt Supreme Court can not decide where and what to evacuate," Rabbi Eliyahu said. "The court does not decide what is moral."
Reacting to reports that most of those refusing orders were religious, and that some consulted with their rabbis by phone, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that IDF soldiers must take orders only from their commanders. "Refusal is inappropriate," he concluded. Barak made the comments during a visit to the Tze'elim army base on Tuesday.
In contrast, Knesset Member Tzvi Hendel (National Union-NRP) told Arutz Sheva Radio that the soldiers who refused to carry out the eviction-related orders are "praiseworthy."
"I am glad there are soldiers with heads on their shoulders who refused, politely, but
Barak said that IDF soldiers must take orders only from their commanders.
forcefully," MK Hendel commented. "I was very glad that there is this wonderful group that doesn't only follow orders, but that wants to understand matters and knows how to say that they were not intended for use in political missions. Their action is worthy of all praises. ...Those soldiers need to know that they are doing the right thing and that if some weak-minded people will punish them, then that is only because of that weakness."
Several of the soldiers who expressed insubordination have already been sentenced to 28 days confinement to base, a monetary fine and removal from their combat unit.
A factional colleague of MK Hendel, MK Zevulun Orlev of the National Religious Party, expressed reservations about the phenomenon of refusal in the IDF, but also said that soldiers should not be sent to carry out police functions.
"There can be no justification for insubordination," MK Orlev said, "because it causes harm to the IDF and to the State of Israel. By the same token, the government must be condemned for its foolish decision to recruit the IDF for a police operation - in order to remove Jewish families whose property was stolen in the 1929 riots and who have the right to live in Hevron."
Far-left MK Zehava Gal-On (Meretz-Yahad) used the Hevron eviction refusal incident to further her crusade against the Hesder yeshivas, in which soldiers combine yeshiva studies with army service. Gal-On wrote a letter to Defense Minister Barak on Monday in which she called for the immediate dissolution of the Hesder yeshivas and for charges to be leveled against rabbis who, Gal-On claims, incite soldiers to refuse military orders.
Those Duchifat troops who refused or avoided assisting with the Hevron evictions, however, were not exclusively soldiers from a Hesder yeshiva, and a significant portion of them were not even outwardly religious, according to witnesses from the unit in question.
Gal-On's colleague in Meretz, Avshalom Vilan, likewise called for the Attorney General to press charges against rabbis who instructed soldiers to refuse the Hevron eviction orders.