Twenty-five reservists, including officers, have added fuel to the fire raging among the rank-and-file over the IDF’s continuing expulsions of Homesh residents, often accompanied by violence and desecrations of the Sabbath.
The officers’ unprecedented letter to Colonel Yitzchak Bar, a commander in Samaria, and to the commander of the Shimshon battalion, stated, “We want to return the battalion, valued by all of us, to its days of glory. We call on our comrades to return to the true national mission of a determined war against terrorist enemies.
"Battalion officers and soldiers made us ashamed by being busy with politically impulsive actions at Homesh the past several months, including running after Jews as if they were terrorists. It is not surprising that soldiers in basic training fear for their future in the army when they are exploited for political purposes that have nothing to do with the security of the country."
Homesh is one of four Jewish communities in northern Samaria that the government destroyed, expelling the residents, under the same policy that forcefully expelled 9,000 Jews from Gaza communities four years ago.
The Homesh First movement has maintained a presence at the destroyed site for two years despite dozens of expulsions by the Army and Border Police. Soldiers, both secular and religious, in the Shimshon battalion have objected to what they call an “obsession” with their commander to harass Homesh residents.
Their protest reached an unprecedented peak three weeks ago when two soldiers raised a protest sign during an IDF ceremony at the Western Wall. They were sentenced to jail for 20 days and were thrown out of combat service for their action. An American donor has paid their families nearly $300 a month for each night spent in jail.
The letter from the reservists has proven that the protest sign at the Western Wall was only the beginning of what is becoming a wholesale campaign against the expulsions that has embroiled Knesset members as well as the public.
Last Friday night’s Sabbath desecrations during the latest expulsion effort brought a sharp rebuke from Knesset Member Zev Elkin, who said it violated an agreement between a Knesset committee and the IDF that ensured there would be no violations of the Sabbath. Soldiers last Friday night began to take away Homesh residents' food that had been prepared for the Sabbath before political intervention stopped the move. However, soldiers in the expulsion force spilled water from tanks and carried out bodily searches on residents after the Sabbath had begun.
One of the signatories to the letter, reservist Yedidya Noiman, commented, “I am not a ‘settler,' am not a political activist, and I do not know if I would have raised a protest sign but the actions of the battalion in the last few months to expel Jews, are based on political motives. I fought in the Shimshon battalion in Gaza, the Second Lebanon War and in Operation Cast Lead, but today I am ashamed that the battalion’s principle actions are against Jews.
The protest action will gain more steam on Saturday night, when a reception is planned for the two soldiers who raised the protest sign three weeks ago, which proclaimed, “The Shimshon battalion does not conduct expulsions at Homesh.”
The event is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. Israeli time at the Shirat Jerusalem facility near the neighborhood of Givat Shaul. Leading nationalist religious rabbis and nationalist politicians are expected to attend.