Army protestors
Army protestorsIsrael news photo

More punishment to the Hesder army students who protested against orders to demolish Jewish homes: One has been thrown out of Hesder, and one out of the army altogether.

Two soldiers from the Shimshon Brigade who unfurled a sign in protest of using soldiers to destroy Jewish homes in Negohot have now received their latest punishment. After having sat in army prison for 18 days, being demoted to the rank of private, and removed from combat service, one has now been thrown out of the army altogether – and the other has been removed from the Hesder program. Instead of being permitted to continue his five-year army service combining Torah study (2/3) and regular army (1/3), he must now serve another 18 months in the army without any yeshiva time.

The soldiers are Aryeh Arvos, who refused to express regret and was thrown out of the army, and Achiya Ovadiah. They were part of a group who unfurled a banner at an IDF swearing-in ceremony at the Western Wall reading, “Shimshon Brigade Won’t Evacuate Homesh.” Shortly afterwards, six Nachshon Brigade soldiers held a banner atop a building in their army base in Adorayim reading, “Nachshon Brigade, Too, Won’t Expel Jews.” The two Hesder students involved were similarly jailed, demoted and thrown out of Hesder; the non-Hesder soldiers, some of them not religious, were jailed and demoted.

Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, head of the Elon Moreh yeshiva in which Arvos and Ovadiah study/studied, was infuriated by the latest punishments: “Why don’t they just hang them in the city square as well?! Is [Defense Minister] Ehud Barak not yet satisfied? They have already paid the price many times over. If he thinks they are not fit for the army, they must all be thrown out altogether; what connection is their between waving signs and the Hesder program? Taking combat commanders and making them stockroom clerks is quite a punishment in and of itself..."

“Barak is doing this only for himself, he doesn’t take into account the interests of the State of Israel – for in the end, this will harm the State. Hesder has given a lot to the country, but at this rate, motivation to serve in Hesder is dropping. If they don’t want us, we will find other ways; our students can learn in full-time yeshivot, like the hareidi-religious. This is not our ideal solution, because we want to serve the State, even with its present government and Defense Minister…”

MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) said, “Throwing Aryeh Arvos out of the army is just another step in the split between the IDF and the Jews of Judea and Samaria. It is Netanyahu and Barak who are responsible for this split, and they are pushing an entire population sector outside the fence. It is too bad they are forgetting who is standing at the forefront of the front lines.”

Hold the Law Suit!

Barak is punishing the Hesder yeshivot on yet another front, by removing Yeshivat Har Brachah from the program, because of statements by Dean Rabbi Eliezer Melamed. Sixty-three students who are affected by the decision have filed a suit with the Supreme Court against the decision. Efforts are being made within the Hesder Yeshivot Association to withdraw the suit, however, as the chances of winning in the Supreme Court are deemed to be infitesimal - paving the way for Barak to continue his heavy-handed treatment of the Hesder program, but with the added backing of the Supreme Court.