$$ Prize to Soldiers' Parents

Soldiers are jailed for protesting at a Western Wall military ceremony against being used to evict settlers; parents will receive a monetary prize.

Hillel Fendel , | updated: 11:07

IDF soldiers
IDF soldiers
Israel news photo

Two soldiers who publicly protested against being used to evict settlers from Homesh are in jail for 20 days – and their parents will receive an "educational" monetary award for having raised such "wonderful" sons.

The prize amounts to 1,100 shekels ($300) for each night that the soldiers spend in military prison. It is being given by the Task Force to Save the Nation and the Land, a pro-Land of Israel and nationalist organization based in Tzfat (Safed). Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpe, director of the organization, said the intention is to recognize and reward "parents who merited to raise and educate such wonderful sons as these, and to raise the spirits of these families who are suffering because of this grave decision to jail their sons."

An official of the organization told Israel National News that another group "apparently likes our idea and is planning to give a prize of its own to the parents as well. It will be given at the same occasion as our award – sometime next week in Jerusalem."

The two Shimshon Battalion soldiers, who have already begun their sentence in a military prison, were sentenced  on Sunday after they held up signs at their swearing-in ceremony on Thursday at the Western Wall. The signs read, "Shimshon Battalion soldiers do not carry out evictions at Homesh." In addition to the jail sentences, the soldiers have also been permanently ousted from the Shimshon Battalion – a combat unit stationed permanently in Judea and Samaria. One observer said that the latter punishment alone would have been a sufficiently severe punishment for the highly-motivated soldiers.

A brother of one of the two said they knew in advance that they were likely to pay a heavy price but were not deterred. He explained that many of the Shimshon soldiers "have been demoralized for a long time: IDF officers incite them against their brothers in Shomron (Samaria) and forbid them from being guests in their homes and dining there on Sabbaths." He said that they "enlisted in order to fight the Arab enemy; instead, they are taken on actions against Jews throughout Shomron.”   

Officers, Soldiers Agree
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said he views the protest "with gravity," and said that IDF soldiers should not be used for outside interests. IDF Central District Commander Gen. Avi Mizrachi, only a few days in his position, said the army "should not be dragged into political discourse, causing division in the nation's army." The protestors apparently agree whole-heartedly with those sentiments.

Activists have been persistent in their attempts to return to Homesh since it was razed in the 2005 Disengagement, despite repeated and sometimes violent army evictions, some of which have taken place on the Sabbath.