The city of Efrat in Gush Etzion on Thursday hosted a unique conference, aimed at bringing IDF soldiers and youth from Judea and Samaria closer, in light of the recent tensions between soldiers and nationalists – tensions which have resulted in clashes, such as the recent skirmish at the Ephraim Brigade base.
The conference was in essence a dialogue between the sides, and members of each group were given the opportunity to present their view of the mutual relationship between the defense system and Israeli citizens.
Army officers, residents of Judea and Samaria, pre-military students and high school students were all invited to take part in the discussions which were held in a round table format.
Speakers included former chief military rabbi Gen. (res.) Rabbi Avichai Ronsky, National Lottery Chairman Maj. Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan, Efrat mayor Oded Revivi, the Chairman of Professors for a Strong Israel Dr. Gabi Avital, and the Deputy Director of the Binyamin Regional Council Col. (res.) Moti Yogev.
Also invited were the IDF’s chief education officer and the chief military rabbi, but both were prohibited to attend. The reason for the prohibition was not given, but some speculated that it had something to do with the recent controversy over the service of hareidi-religious soldiers in the IDF.
Revivi told Arutz Sheva that the dialogue his city hosted came about as a result of two initiatives that were taken by Efrat citizens after the incident at the Ephraim Brigade base. One involved reserve officers who put out an advertisement in the paper in which they condemned the behavior of the nationalist activists who stormed the base. The second involved twelfth graders from Efrat who signed a petition against such behavior.
“Those two initiatives were the trigger for this event,” Revivi explained. “We decided that we want to speak at round tables as to how you protest while projecting your criticism, if you have it, and leaving the army out of it.”
“I think whoever took part in the discussions saw how the recent events in the country – regarding women, the riots in Beit Shemesh, the army’s decision to command people to take part in event where women sing – all brought more topics to the table,” he added.
“The main challenge,” he said, “is to see how we take what happened here and make it something which will become the discussion around the country as to how we can bridge over differences and not simply break the relationships that we have.”