Protests have erupted in Hevron Wednesday evening to support "David the Nahlawi," the soldier who was punished this week for defending himself against Arab provocateurs.
Protestors held signs with powerful messages.
"David the Nahlawi has been here for us, now we are here for him," one reads. Another reads, "Self-defense is not a crime!" Still another: "Breaking the Silence and 'B'Tselem' [leftist anti-IDF groups - ed.] do not control the IDF!"
Children in Hevron also handed popsicles out to soldiers with messages attached. "To our dear soldiers - with love and gratitude, the citizens of Israel."
'Israel is with you en masse'
Jewish Home (Bayit Yehudi) MK Orit Struk spoke at the protest.
"The soldiers who stand at the entrance of Beit Hadassah, and any other position in Hevron, are the only barrier between the kids around here and the terrorists," she stated. "If our soldiers would hesitate to respond to anyone who tries to harm them, that hesitancy that could cost lives and we talk about incidents [like this] that have happened in the past."
"This is why we came [today] to support the troops, [to encourage them] not to hesitate to do their important work," she continued. "We came to say to commanders: a commander, who dismissed a soldier who acted against an Arab who came to distract him from his guard - you may be responsible for the hesitancy of the next soldier, and, G-d forbid, the next [terror] attack."
"Dear soldiers, not only are we here for you - Israel is with you en masse," she continued. "We strengthen you and trust your firm stand [against terrorism], and we are convinced that commanders understand that, at the end of the day, if we have to discharge a soldier, it will be for a soldier who did not respond [to prevent an attack] in time."
'Give Back to Your Soldiers'
Hevron's Jewish community also came out in support for David the Nahal soldier, who was punished for protecting them.
"We express support and extra love that we have soldiers serving here, Nahal [Haredi Brigade] soldiers," Hevron Jewish community spokesman Noam Arnon said at the protest. "We call here, now, on the State of Israel: it is inconceivable that Israeli soldiers stand abandoned against the provocation of anarchists, terrorists of various kinds, who are committed to humiliate them and degrade them."
"Soldiers are impotent, they have no tools, they have no ability and no backup to handle properly these terrorists and enemies," he continued. "We demand that the State of Israel eradicate this phenomenon completely, which stem from different sides and organizations, from Israelis and foreigners and all their partners, against violent attacks and provocations against the IDF."
"It has to stop," he declared. "You cannot the put task [of combating this] on our cherished soldiers, this is not what they have been trained to do. They were trained to fight the enemy, they were trained to attack and win, they are not trained to face provocations and ugly humiliations exerted against them. [They were not trained to face] this expertise and skill designed to trap them in a corner, so that later - these pictures and video footage can be distributed all over the world, so they can serve as prey for terrorists' hate."
"We call upon Israel: give back to your soldiers. Give back so they can win this battle," he continued. "This is not a battle of arms, this is a battle of consciousness, a battle against camera. Soldiers need to stand up to their enemies in this battle."
"We came here to support our precious soldiers, we came to express our love and gratitude to them and to protest against the provocations conducted against them every day - Monday through Friday."
From Internet to Real Life
News of the protest has surfaced from a viral Facebook campaign in support of the soldier, which has gained more than 60,000 "likes" in just a few short hours. Thousands of soldiers have uploaded photos expressing support for the soldier - despite warnings from military officials that soldiers linked to the protest may be punished for speaking out against the IDF.
As the protest gains steam, public officials have jumped on board as well. Wednesday afternoon, several MKs joined the viral campaign, which features photos of supporters holding signs saying "I, too, am with David the Nhalawi."
Jewish Home (Bayit Yehudi) MK Orit Struk posted a photo of herself holding a sign with the slogan. "The commander who dismisses this soldier would be responsible for the hesitancy of other soldiers [against terrorism] and [thus for] the next terrorist attack in Hebron," she warned. Likud MK Moshe Feiglin also uploaded a photo of himself with the sign.
Earlier Wednesday, news surfaced that a Nahal Brigade soldier was dismissed from combat service because he cocked his gun in an incident that was videotaped by Arab youths who threatened and provoked him in Hevron.
The video shows at least three Arab youths behaving in a threatening manner toward the soldier, who was alone. The soldier warns one of the youths not to continue provoking him, after the youth pushes him, but the youth continues to behave in a threatening manner. The soldier cocks his weapon and points it at the youth and at another youth who springs toward him, with what appears to be a set of brass knuckles on his hand. The soldier kicks the first youth away from him.
The video does not include the provocations that preceded the incident. In a longer version he also warns the cameraman to stop videotaping the incident and calls for backup.
Arab extremists and their left-wing allies uploaded the video to the internet and notified the media. The IDF promptly announced that the soldier's behavior “deviated from the norm.” Military sources said that the soldier used too much violence and acted hastily when he attacked the youth, and that he might be dismissed from his unit as a result. They also said that the soldier would no longer serve in combat positions.
Military officials told Ma'ariv/NRG and Walla! News later Wednesday that the soldier faces jail time, over what they claim is an unrelated offense; David has been accused of attacking two fellow officers.
Fellow soldiers have dismissed this as incorrect, however.
"There are a lot of incorrect rumors floating around," one soldier stated on a local television show, "5 with Rafi Reshef."
"Two children came up to him," he clarified. "Like when anything suspicious happens, [David] asked for a routine identity check and the teen began to run. When the soldier ran after him many [Palestinian Arab children] ganged up on him and began gathering there."
"The soldier was pressured like anyone else would be - this is not a simple situation," he added.
'This could endanger lives'
The news story has captivated the hearts of the Israeli public Wednesday, and several officials have begun to weigh in on the conflict.
One official, Rabbi Haim Retig, head of the ZEHUT Israeli Center for Culture and Identity, wrote an open protest letter to IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz over the incident - and begging him to stop the leftist organizations provoking incidents between Palestinian Arabs and IDF soldiers.
"We must make a strong statement that we cannot tolerate insults to our troops, we will not allow the existence of organized campaigns against them, and justice and truth must be brought to light," the Rabbi wrote.
"The IDF's honor, and the dignity of our soldiers, are fundamental to our Jewish and Israeli identity - and actions of incitement and provocation on the part of these organizations are nothing but vulgar attempts to harm these values, and present a distorted picture that the IDF and its soldiers are immoral."
"Provocations like these, which demand that soldiers show restraint against [attackers], might ultimately cause injury and death," he continued. "Our soldiers cannot always know and distinguish between acts that attempt to provoke [a reaction] and real threats that could endanger their lives."
The Rabbi notes, as an IDF veteran and experienced reserve commander, that the video shows an unprecedented amount of planning into the incitement campaign.
"I was amazed at how organized and calculated this incitement operation waged against soldiers was," he stated. "The video actually reveals the extent of the impossible situations our soldiers have to deal with, every day and every hour."