Every Independence Day, a ceremony is held at the President’s house at which outstanding soldiers are awarded by the President, Prime Minister and the Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces.
One of the honored soldiers yesterday was St.-Sgt. Hananel Dayan, a tank driver from the Northern Command who lives in the Binyamin town of Psagot. When presented with his award, he refused to shake Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz’s outstretched hand. Dayan informed the IDF chief that he was unable to shake his hand, and when President Moshe Katzav, standing alongside him, asked why, he answered, “Because my family was expelled from Gush Katif.”
An uncomfortable scene ensued, with President Katzav scolding Dayan, saying his behavior was “unsuitable.” Dayan simply saluted the Chief of Staff and descended from the stage.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the head of the IDF Personnel Corps Brig.-Gen. Elazar Stern, a religious Jew, approached Dayan and began reprimanding him, demanding that he apologize to the Chief of Staff. Dayan stood his ground, telling Stern that when he looked at the Chief of Staff, he saw the bulldozers that destroyed his grandparents’ home in Gush Katif. He said he stood by his refusal to shake the army chief’s hand.
Dayan’s grandfather passed away shortly after Gush Katif was declared a closed zone to non-residents.
The award for excellence granted to Dayan read as follows: “Despite the severity of his personal loss, he continued to function and contribute to the unit. He is embraced by his fellow soldiers and is happy to perform any task or mission given to him and his friends from his company.”
Hananel is the part of the third generation of the Sarusi family that lived in the Gush Katif town of N’vei Dekalim. His father, Yossi Dayan, who traces his lineage to King David, has made headlines in the past for making strong statements against former PM Ariel Sharon and left-wing figures.
Dayan’s mother insists that her son’s behavior was a display of emotion, not of disrespect. “His emotions rendered him unable to shake the hand that threw his family out of their homes,” she said.
An IDF statement claimed that “Dayan expressed, though his actions, a political position, which is unfitting and without a place in the IDF.” The statement also said his award for outstanding service would be reconsidered in light of his actions. “Excellence includes normative and fitting behavior as well,” it said.
Gen. Halutz said, "We'll wait a day or two for the strong feelings to subside, and then what action to take."
Dayan’s uncle, Ofer Sarusi, told Arutz-7 that prior to attending the ceremony, Hananel wavered on whether or not to attend at all, but decided in the end to attend. “He worried that he was attending a ceremony of those who displayed ‘excellence in Disengagement’ ” Sarusi said.
“On a personal level he is at peace with what he did and is prepared for the persecution that the establishment will certainly apply against him,” Sarusi said. “He has already informed his company commander of what happened, because the matter will certainly be passed through the chain of command in order that he receive a reprimand from his commanders.”
Explaining Dayan’s position further, Sarusi said: “The army does not belong to the Chief of Staff, he is just a functionary of the army – and it does no harm that on his day of celebration he be reminded that there are people who were harmed by the expulsion.”
Professors for a Strong Israel called Dayan’s refusal to shake Halutz’s hand “an ethical and normative protest that demonstrated that life cannot return to ‘business as usual’ on the first Independence Day after the expulsion of Israeli citizens from their homes in their land.”
MK Tzvi Hendel, himself forcibly evicted from his home in Gush Katif, said he understood Dayan’s actions. He said that he recommended that Chief of Staff Halutz “examine himself and his own arrogant and pompous behavior, as well as his periodic outbursts inciting against the residents of Judea and Samaria and those expelled from Gaza.”
Dozens of people expelled from Gaza and northern Samaria have been calling the Dayan family, thanking them for Hananel’s stand.