SOS Israel awards ceremony held in Jerusalem restaurant. Seated second from left is Chabad rabbi Sholom DovBer Wolpo, arguably the most popular rabbi for the Chabad street.
Prize awarded to Shimshon Battalion 'rebels'
New recruits Aryeh Arbus and Ahiya Ovadia who protested against evacuation of Homesh during induction ceremony still in military prison, while their families receive check and certificate of recognition from SOS Israel for sons' actions
Aviad Glickman • Ynet
They have yet to finish their punishment, but are already being rewarded. After being sentenced to 20 days in military prison and permanent expulsion from the Kfir Brigade for waving banners protesting the evacuation of West Bank settlements during their military induction ceremony, the two Shimshon Battalion new recruits received a completely contradictory message.
The extreme rightist organization SOS Israel awarded each of the two recruits, Aryeh Arbus and Ahiya Ovadia, NIS 20,000 (about $5350) and a certificate recognizing them as Prisoners of Zion. The monetary prize and certificate were handed to their families in an honorary ceremony held for them in a Jerusalem restaurant.
Head of SOS Israel Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpo, MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union), and extreme rightist Baruch Marzel attended the ceremony. The soldiers themselves were not in attendance because they are still serving time in military prison. They will be released in a few days. Only then will the military decide on their new assignments.
'Barak using soldiers for political ends'
Arbus' wife, Ruhama, spoke at Wednesday's ceremony. "My husband received encouragement from his fellow battalion members. His friends are proud of what he did," she said. "A lot of his friends were afraid to do it, and they regret this now. They understand that this kind of thing needs to be done."
"There were a lot of deliberations over whether Aryeh would enlist. In the end, we decided that he would enlist to a combat unit because it is important to be part of the war." However, she noted, "He said to his commanders that if they do something against God, he won't do it. It was painful for us the whole time his brigade did such horrible things."
"I am proud of my son-in-law," said Rabbi Daniel Hacohen, the rabbi of the Bat Ayin settlement and Arbus' father-in-law. "This reality in Israel is an intolerable one when the military is sent to fight against citizens of the State. We are proud of our hero, but our happiness is tainted with sadness that the people of Israel have not succeeded in creating a military that is not involved in politics."
MK Ben Ari added, "It is very unfortunately that the IDF, which needs to be above any political debate, which is supposed to propel the return of Israel to its land, behaves the way it does. There is a serious glitch in the image of the defense minister who uses IDF soldiers for political and cynical ends. Sending soldiers time after time, even on Shabbat evenings, to evacuate towns is pushing soldiers into a corner."
"Ehud Barak uses the Defense Ministry to promote narrow political interests," Ben Ari continued.
Hanan Greenberg contributed to this report.