A fighter in the IDF infantry Kfir Brigade told Channel 1 News the brigade’s entire Shimshon battalion is planning to go AWOL should their fellow fighter Elor Azaria, on trial for shooting a terrorist when the latter had already been neutralized, be convicted by a military court.
The military panel is expected to rule in Sgt. Azaria’s manslaughter case in three weeks, and tensions are high in his home battalion, according to Mabat News’ military correspondent Eliran Tal’s Sunday night’s report. Soldiers are threatening to drop their weapons and abandon their posts in case of a conviction.
“If Azaria is convicted, the entire Shimshon battalion intends to get up and leave,” an Azaria peer, apparently, told Tal. “Going Absent?” Tal asked. “Even desertion,” the soldier said. “Is this common talk among the soldiers” Tal inquired. “It’s common talk,” the soldier replied.
The report that followed exposed the disappointment of the battalion’s rank and file soldiers with the behavior of their commanders, who tried to bury Sgt. Azaria in court with their testimonies. The soldiers have been deeply shaken in the eight months since the event by the lack of support from the higher-ups and are expressing uncertainty regarding the boundaries of the rules of engagement.
According to the report, following Azaria’s arrest in relation to shooting the terrorist, 17 of his company peers got together in Moshav Ein Yaakov in upper Galilee, where one of them lives, and decided to go AWOL in response to the way the system was treating their buddy.
“They refused to go back to Hebron,” a moshav resident named Tzahi Eliahu who hosted the soldiers told Mabat. “They wouldn’t even hear about it. They refused to fight, refused to hold a weapon. Some of them, I can tell you, has remained away to this day. They were sent to jail, went AWOL, got medical deferrals, left the battalion.”
A Kfir Brigade soldier, initial A, confirmed, telling Mabat: “I saw one of them working in the PX, working for the quartermaster. I asked them, for this you were enlisted? Aren’t you fighters? They all told me, Sure, I want to go back, but since Elor Azaria I’m not going to.”
One soldier, who was taped with his back to the camera and his voice obscured, told Mabat, “Since the incident I had many sleepless nights. I cried all the time. Luckily, my girlfriend stood by me and supported me emotionally. I collapsed emotionally.”
The report repeats the same story from several different fighters, every one of whom described a desire to just drop his weapon and go home. They mentioned plans for a rebellion, described their anger at their commanders.
A told Mabat the Azaria case has frightened his fellow soldiers. “In check posts, during arrests, many guys are afraid to respond – I, too, have been seeing this. Many times we arrest a man and suddenly he starts resisting, going crazy, and the proper move is to use force against him, but many are avoiding doing it.”
One soldier, Gal Israeli, from Sgt. Azaria’s battalion, told Mabat his buddy was being scapegoated. “Something went wrong there, there were failures, somebody had to pay” he said, “and they dumped it on him with all their might.”
Ran Carmi Buzaglo, an activist on behalf of Azaria, noted the sharp decline in recruitment for combat units. “What people don’t know is just how many are looking to leave their combat units. Soldiers who go on furlough leave their weapons in the armory so as not to get in trouble.”
The IDF spokesperson’s office responded saying that “any claim regarding organized desertion of soldiers is entirely baseless.”
Intelligence agents from the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), IDF soldiers and Israeli Police officers recently joined forces in an massive operation to capture a seven-man Hamas terrorist cell, officials announced Thursday.
The terrorists were planning a complex attack that involved shooting and then abduction of a victim to be used as a bargaining chip in negotiations for the release of jailed terrorists.
According to the information cleared for release, the members of the cell, residents of Tzurif and Hebron, had set up observation posts to gather intelligence on IDF troop movements in the area around Tzurif.
The lead terrorist, a prisoner named Ibrahim Abdullah Ranimat, (born in 1958), has a long rap sheet for which he is already incarcerated and serving a sentence of life in prison.
Ranimat was responsible for the 1996 abduction and murder of IDF soldier Sharon Edri, and the 1997 bombing attack on a Tel Aviv cafe that killed three Israeli women. He also participated in two shooting and suicide bombing attacks that took the lives of three Israelis.
Nevertheless, Ranimat’s six co-conspirators managed to reach him and plot another deadly attack together with him — one that would have taken more Israeli lives, had it been carried out.
Two of those arrested were Ranimat’s sons, Fadi and Shadi Ranimat. A third conspirator who was arrested was Muhammad Ranimat, Ibrahim Abdullah’s son-in-law., who directed the operatives of the cell.
Conspirator number four was Haitham Hamidan, who hid the weapons for Ranimat’s family. The fifth member of the cell was J’ad Sultan, who was tasked with delivering the arms to the cell, and the sixth member was Rami Rajoub from the village of Dura. All were arrested.
Shin Bet agents, IDF soldiers and Israel Police officers uncovered during their investigation large quantities of weapons during the arrests. Included were two Kalashnikov rifles, three handguns, a hunting rifle, an M-16 military assault rifle, magazines and ammunition. All were confiscated by the security forces.
In the course of the investigation six additional Hamas terrorists were also arrested and indictments are expected to be issued shortly by the military prosecutor.
In recent years, radical-Left NGOs have marked Hebron as a strategic target through which to facilitate and promote international pressure on Israel. Rightwing Jewish movement Im Tirtzu is planning to change that, inviting thousands of Israeli students to visit the city of Hebron on regular tours aimed at strengthening the historical national connection to the city. The program, run by Im Tirtzu and the Jewish Community of Hebron, exposes students to the realities of Hebron, their main goal being “to connect more students to the history of Hebron and to strengthen each student’s deep connection to the place.”
Tour organizers expect a turnout of 5,000 students throughout the academic year.
The first tour takes place on Thursday, leaving from Bar-Ilan University on the outskirts of Tel Aviv. According to Im Tirtzu, the tours provides a balancing point of view in a milieu where radical, anti-Israel groups use tours of the city to slander and delegitimize Israel. They will visit the Cave of the Patriarchs, David HaMelech Street, the ancient Jewish cemetery, Tel Romeda, Beit Romano, and the Hebron Heritage Museum.
The program organizers have discussed potential run-ins with radical anti-Zionist groups during the tour, concluding that “if students on the tour encounter foreign journalists, European MPs, or anti-Israel propaganda tours led by radical Left NGOs, they will be permitted to provide them with educational materials that expose the hypocrisy and double standards of the delegitimization campaign against Israel.”
“Of course,” the organizers stress, “there must be an emphasis on appropriate conduct and politeness.”
The program is expected to run at all the Israeli universities and colleges with Im Tirtzu groups, including Hebrew University, the Technion, and Tel Aviv, Ben-Gurion, Bar-Ilan, Haifa, and Ariel universities.
Spokesman for the Hebron Jewish Community Yishai Fleisher noted that “Hebron and the Cave of the Patriarchs are at the foundation of the People of Israel and represent our historical right to the land. It is astonishing that the anti-Zionist narrative brazenly chooses to rip out these deep historical roots – entrenched in Jewish consciousness and borne out by archaeological proof – in their slanderous tours of the city. Apparently, they believe that the Jews and the world have forgotten history, and so they promote a false narrative depicting Jews as foreigners and as occupiers of their own country.”
Fleisher expressed his hope that the Im Tirtzu tours will help “thousands of students to learn the historical truth of Hebron that will strengthen their connection to the city. They will also learn about the heroic spirit of Hebron that is much-needed today. In the end, the program will empower the students, the State of Israel’s presence in Hebron, and the entire Zionist narrative.”
Im Tirtzu CEO Matan Peleg has written the leaders of the Jewish Community of Hebron that “Im Tirtzu recognized that radical organizations are trying to harm one of the most important historical locations of the People of Israel. Bringing hundreds and thousands of students to Hebron this year and in upcoming years is the best answer to all those who are trying to rewrite the history of Israel.”
“These tours,” Peleg continued, “will ensure that the historical connection to Hebron will be passed on to the next generation of Israelis who will see with their own eyes what’s happening in the city and will learn about the lies perpetrated by radical organizations.”
Peleg expressed his commitment that Im Tirtzu would help keep Hebron at the heart of the Israeli consensus “despite the efforts of foreign-agent organizations.” Noting that Jewish history in Israel began in Hebron, with the purchase of the Cave of the Patriarchs some 3,500 years ago, Peleg promised that Im Tirtzu would help “the future of Israel continue to prosper in Hebron.”
This past Shabbat, Parashat Chayei Sarah, has in recent years assumed the added appellation Shabbat Hebron, taken from the opening chapter in Genesis 23, detailing the purchase of what we call today Me’orat Machpelah in the town of Hebron by Avraham as a burial site for his recently deceased wife, Sarah.
Given the ongoing events related to the nearly universal questioning of the rights to ownership of the Land of Israel by the Jewish people, a closer examination of our rightful inheritance of this land based upon biblical narrative is in order.
Recently, a new commentary on the book of Genesis was published entitled, The Inside Story: A Chassidic Perspective on Biblical Events, Laws, and Personalities (Meaningful Life Center) by Rabbi Yanki Tauber of Woodmere, N.Y.
Within this excellent work can be found some of the most literate and profound observations and interpretations of the biblical text incorporating a plethora of commentaries of varied ideological and theological origins. This methodology, as written and presented to us by Rabbi Tauber gives us an excellent taste for the deeper meanings that are at the core of the teachings of our holy faith.
This review will deal with Rabbi Tauber’s interpretation of the Hebron saga, entitled, “The Hebron Purchase.” As is my method, I will present to you the author’s take for your intellectual enjoyment. This presentment in my opinion is an excellent teaching justifying the Jewish claim to the Land of Israel from time immemorial.
The author begins his narrative by citing the following biblical verse:
“Abraham weighed out to Ephron the money of which he spoke in the ears of the children of Heth: four hundred shekels of silver in merchant’s currency”
Rabbi Tauber follows this verse citation with the following learned teaching that should serve as the basis for the Jewish claim to the Land of Israel:
In Genesis 23 we read of the first tract in the Land of Israel to enter into Jewish possession. G-d had already promised Abraham, ‘The entire land that you see, I will give to you and your descendants forever…Arise and traverse the land, in its length and in its breadth, for to you I shall give it…’ [Gen. 13]. But many centuries would pass before Abraham’s descendants took actual possession of the Land under the leadership of Joshua. One place, however, where a part of the Land of Israel came into the possession of the Jewish people in the actual and legal sense was the “Machpelah Field and its cave” in the heart of Hebron, which Abraham purchased from Ephron the Hittite.
Further on the author presents to us the reality that these events have come down to us and teach both us, and the world the truth as to what Eretz Yisrael means to us since time immemorial:
Indeed, our sages point out that there are three places in the Land of Israel over which the Jewish right of ownership is most powerfully established. Even those who deny the divine promise quoted above [and reiterated by G-d many times throughout the Bible], cannot contest the Jewish right over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, purchased by King David from Aravnah the Jebusite; the section of Shechem [Nablus] purchased by Jacob from the family of Canaanite ruler Hamor; and the Machpelah Field of Hebron, purchased by Abraham as a burial place for his wife Sarah.
Rabbi Tauber concludes this teaching with the following observation:
The same is true of the Land of Israel. Israel is the eternal inheritance of the Jewish people, equally the property of every individual Jew. And so it has been from the very first moment of Jewish ownership of the Holy Land: the first plot of land obtained by the first Jew included a share for every Jewish soul.
This sacred teaching inheres within it absolutely no equivocation of thought or intent. This claim to the Land of Israel is based upon the holy writ, a scripture regarded as sacred by two of the three major monotheistic faiths of our time.
This lesson is further reinforced by the author in a previous teaching, “Give and Given,” cited in this same volume wherein we learn the following:
Therein lies a lesson for all generations of Jews. Although we may find ourselves in galut [exile], under the hegemony of nations more powerful than ourselves, this does not in the least affect our ownership of the Holy Land. The Land of Israel is ours by divine bequest; we need only claim our heritage. We need only traverse the land and settle its length and breadth to make it unequivocally and eternally ours.
Rabbi Yanki Tauber is currently chief writer and editor of The Book, a new translation and anthologized commentary for The Five Books of Moses, and is the author of the three volume series Inside Time: A Chassidic Perspective on the Jewish Calendar, that warrants your attention, too. More on the Purchase
Recently a new volume was published by Maggid Books entitled With Might and Strength: An Autobiography by Rabbi Shlomo Goren, zt”l. Within this extremely interesting work are some very insightful observations of his experiences during the Six Day War in 1967. Among these experiences were those that he had in the conquest of Hebron in a chapter entitled, “Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs.” His first-hand accounts are among the very few to have been written by someone who fully understood the spiritual significance of this conquest. With the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Six Day War this coming spring, I strongly urge to give this memoir by Rav Goren your attention.
Another work worth your attention is Between the Lines of the Bible: Recapturing the Full Meaning of the Biblical Text (UO Press / Urim Publications, 2015) by Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom. Of timely importance is Rabbi Etshalom’s rather cerebral treatment of the Biblical text dealing with Hebron, specifically, chapter 12, “From Hebron to Sodom.” and chapter 14, “ Purchase of Machpelah: Historical Background and Archaeological Evidence as Tools of Interpretation.”