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Why did Religious Students meet an Ultra Left Activist?

Yeshiva University students meet Machsom Watch activist at IDF checkpoint. Their professors explain that the meeting is for academic purposes only.
By Elad Benari and Yoni Kempinski
First Publish: 1/17/2011, 5:54 PM / Last Update: 1/18/2011, 3:13 AM

A group of Jewish religious students from Yeshiva University in the United States, who were on a visit to Israel, met on Monday with a representative of the extreme leftist organization Machsom Watch, a group of Israeli women who monitor IDF checkpoints, often bothering and harassing the soldiers stationed at those checkpoints.

Despite the seemingly odd meeting, the students’ instructors explained that the meeting was for academic purposes only.

“We had a course in ethics of war which went for a full semester and we’re completing the course with a conference this week in Jerusalem,” said Rabbi Shalom Carmy, Assistant Professor of Bible at Yeshiva University in a conversation with Israel National News TV.

Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, Co-Director of the Ethics and Judaism course for YU students added that the students “came here to see what is a checkpoint, what is it all about, what are the debates, in order to understand the situation.”

Rabbi Cherlow added that the purpose of the visit to the checkpoint is to ensure that students hear all the sides. As such, he said, they will hear explanations from soldiers as well as the Machsom Watch representative. “This is the way that they will understand the situation. They personally are very positive and very supportive of Israel and are good ambassadors of Israel.”

According to Rabbi Cherlow, if the students hear both sides of the debate, they will know what is being said against Israel, be able to answer accusations and defend Israel much better. Rabbi Carmy added that “students have to know what’s going on. They have to hear the different voices. It’s an important part of their ability to respond to questions at other universities and in the public square in the United States.”

He emphasized that the course is an academic course, in which most of the time is spent in the classroom dealing with war in general and not just war in Israel. “While we are here we are meeting people from different sides of the spectrum, both from the left and from the right and from the middle,” he added.

Machsom Watch activists have been known to be present at IDF checkpoints and harass the soldiers there, often disrupting their work of inspecting PA Arabs who wish to cross the checkpoints and enter Israeli-controlled territories.

One memorable incident occurred four years ago when IDF soldiers at the Hawara checkpoint apprehended a PA minor who was carrying explosives. Machsom Watch activists on the scene had insisted that the soldiers release the would-be terrorist.

According to eyewitnesses, members of Machsom Watch had tried to intervene the minute that soldiers wrestled the young man with the explosives to the ground. The activists had reportedly yelled at the soldiers as they struggled with the terrorist, saying, “Leave him alone, he’s just a child.”

Machsom Watch has been named as one of the leftist groups whose funding sources will be investigated by a parliamentary committee of inquiry. The Knesset approved the establishment of such a committee earlier this month in a 41:17 vote.