This article is about Aryeh Arbus, a soldier that held up a banner that called for refusal of his brigade to obey orders to expel Jews and does not regret it.
What I learned from Aryeh Arbus was
a. Better commit a minor transgression in order not to commit a severe transgression
b. We need to remove people that change the role of the army and not those that preserve its role.
Dear Women in Green, amv"sh
Thank you for sending this to your list. To the rest of my list, if you haven't read this article the first time I sent it around, take the time to do so now. It's very enlightening as to how the IDF deals with soldiers who refuse to obey orders that conflict with Jewish moral values of the soldier.
My husband's reaction in reading this article was that the IDF did not handle this very smartly.
a. They reacted with "go shoot the messenger instead of paying attention to the message"
b. It shows that the IDF is not interested in training Jewish Soldiers but rather just robotic soldiers.
p.s. If your Hebrew is good but would like to improve your Hebrew, spend some time reading the article in Hebrew and see how it was translated. You will learn many new words in Hebrew that you were unfamiliar with. If you know any UIpan teachers in Israel or Hebrew High school teachers in the Diaspora, this article and its translation are excellent educational material for improving modern Hebrew. Also if you wish to improve your English do it visa versa.
The Soldier who called for Refusal: I would do it again.
"The banner was a provocation in order to send a message. We need to
remove people who change the Army's mission" Private Arbus, who waved
the banner at the Western Wall, does not regret his actions.
After Private Aryeh Arbus, who waved a banner against evacuating
settlements during an army swearing-in ceremony at the Western Wall,
was released from prison, he arrived for a conversation with the
commander of the Kfir Brigade, Colonel Oran Avman. At the end of the
two hour long conversation, Arbus pointed at the commander's head.
"Do you know why that is there, and the ranks are placed on your
shoulders?" he asked, "because it is important that the head should be
above the rank. If your rank is above your head, you are a robot."
Avman informed Arbus that he is dismissed from the brigade, and that
he will recommend his dismissal from the IDF.
The outward appearance of Arbus can be deceiving. He has the classic
ultra-orthodox black yarmulke, the beard of a young kollel student,
tzitzit hanging out of his clothing, and an extremely modest build.
But the instant he opens his mouth, it because clear that he is not a
robot in reserve duty. During basic training, he was a candidate to
be selected as an outstanding soldier for his base. In his unit, he
achieved the prestigious position of signal operator for the platoon
commander, and in the professional opinion that his commander sent
after the banner waving, it is written that he is a leading
professional soldier. He is fluent, focused, and adopts clear
"There are senior officers in the army with a problem in their
outlook, therefore a soldier like me confuses them", Arbus said to his
family. "An outstanding soldier who challenges them with thinking out
of the boundaries represents for them a problem. Soldiers with values
are good soldiers, but they have values. The mixture between
excellence and waving the banner drove the brigade commander crazy."
"Waving the banner was a provocation", he admits in conversations with
his friends. "Waving the banner was meant to send a message. It
hurts me that I would need to make a provocation instead of sending a
message in a direct way, but they have pushed us to a corner, and it
is better that a person commits a minor transgression and not commit a
severe transgression. From that perspective, I am not sorry. I am
sorry that we would not to break the laws of military discipline in
order to say something which is so logical, human, and Jewish."
He left the Chassidic Yeshiva to help the Samarian Hills
After he was dismissed from Kfir Brigade, Arbus was summoned to an
incompatibility committee, made up of senior officers in the manpower
system of the IDF. "They asked me there hypothetical questions", he
said to his friends. "'What would you do tomorrow if they would say to
you were assigned to distribute snacks to forces which are evacuating
Jews?' I said to them that it would be hard for me to answer
hypothetical questions and that I would need to think. They got mad
at me. I said to them that a Jewish soldier is a thinking soldier.
They said to me 'No, a Jewish soldier is a soldier that carries out
orders', and they informed me that they would recommend releasing me
from the army."
It is the norm in the IDF that they judge a soldier after he committed
a crime. But the very fact that they ask a soldier in the IDF if he
would refuse an order, that is a precedent which says that the army
has changed its role from defending Jews to something else. Perhaps
now they will ask all IDF soldiers this question? We need to remove
the people that change the role of the army, not those that preserve
"There are a range of orders that fit the army. They cannot take
soldiers to disperse a student demonstration or Flotilla 13 to gather
illegal workers, because that is not their role. I know from the fact
that the government decides for the army, but the army has a role
which has boundaries, and evacuation of Jews is outside of this
boundary. Any act of the army against citizens is that of a third
world country. Against Israeli Arabs, the Border Patrol acts, against
Jewish citizens they don't know to do that?"
Private Aryeh Arbus, #6105973, grew up in an ultra-orthodox household
in Jerusalem, tenth generation of a Gur Chassidic family. His mother
is a psychologist, and his father is a businessman. Eleven siblings,
all still in the ultra-orthodox world. A bit before age 18, he left
the Chassidic Yeshiva, and began to hand out in the Samarian hills.
"The Army doesn't suit you"
Today, he lives in Giv'at Skali in Elon Moreh, married to Ruhama, and
father to the three month old Reishit. He has foregone the woolen
yarmulke of the hilltop youth. "I have never been too excited about
external symbols, this yarmulke or another," he said to his friends.
"Exactly the opposite. When I was a boy with a suit and hat, I went
around in sandals. People were confused. I love showing people
conflicting things, that they will think you are "gross" or you are
"evil", and after two minutes, they will think something else
Like many of his hilltop friends, Arbus felt frustrated by the IDF's
implementation of the Disengagement Plan. He said to the soldier at
the Draft Office "I want to enlist, but I will not take a part in
political assignments". A year ago, he thought about his military
service again. "Because the values situation of the army, I was
uncertain about enlisting", he said to his associates.
"I decided to enlist for two reasons. The first and decisive one was
due to the declaration of Chief of Staff Ashkenazi who announced upon
assuming his office that the army would not take part in political
assignments. The second reason was Operation 'Cast Lead'. At that
time, I had a rising of spirit, a desire to protect the lives of
soldiers. I arrived at the conclusion that the army doesn't belong to
generals, but to the nation."
His family recommended not enlisting. His friends joined them. "The
Army doesn't suit you", they tried to convince him. Today, they say
to him "see, we were right", but Arbus doesn't have regrets. "I still
think that they are wrong. I don't go with the herd. They are mad
that I enlisted, but I decided to be a simple Jew, what is good - we
assist, and what is bad we distance ourselves. The problem is that
there are people that are pulling the army to the wrong place, to a
place of disagreement."
Damage to Mutual Responsibility
After the committee's recommendation, Arbus sent a letter to the
commander of the Absorption and Classification Base, Colonel Gadi
Agmon, in which he objected to the recommendation to release him from
the army. "It pains me that we have been forced, my friends and I, to
act in a few instances in this manner, which is in conflict with army
principles and harms IDF discipline", he wrote. "This action came
from a feeling of being pushed toa corner and from a lack of choice,
and a fear from an order which would obligate me to expel my wife and
daughter and friends and family from their homes. Is there not a
place for everyone, my hurting friends and I, a place in the nation's
army whose job is the security of the nation of Israel in its land?"
Arbus wrote further: "Is it possible that the IDF will act as it did
with me in the incompatibility commission and require soldiers to
answer how they would act in a hypothetical situation, like an order
that has yet to be given and stands on the thin line between conscious
and his obligations as a soldier? If so, why doesn't the IDF go out
with a questionnaire of all soldiers, or at least the soldiers which
come from frameworks which don't outright reject refusal of orders
which are against their religion and faith, and disqualify ahead of
time from their obligation to defend Israel and its land?"
For the conclusion of his objection letter, he wrote that "a process
such as that of my release from the IDF, will harm the integration and
the mutual responsibility between the different parts of the nation of
Israel, who meet in the IDF and see it as the nation's army, which
gives every Jew the opportunity to protect and defend and to help
continue the existence of the nation of Israel in the Land of Israel.
"Even Leftists have joined our protest"
Arbus was sent to serve in the adjutancy department of the Bik'ah
Brigade, and on Wednesday, the deputy brigade commander informed him
that the final decision had been made to release him from army
service. On Sunday he will go to the induction center, where he will
return his equipment and be released.
This week, Arbus reconstructed, in conversations with his friends, the
decision to wave the banner at the Western Wall, the decision which
sent him for 20 days incarceration in Prison Six, and his removal from
army service. "Preceding it were developments and small protests
within the company, which were silenced by the officers", he said to
them. "The idea for the banner was born in a brainstorm discussion
with friends in the company, and we came to the conclusion that this
is the right thing to do. We tried, but there was no other choice.
It pains me, but I do not regret it. If I could pass on the message
in a way that would follow army laws, I would be happy, but there was
"We had a feeling that this disciplinary crime was dwarfed by the
human crime being committed here. If it was possible to turn back the
clock, I would do it again just the same. I am confident that in the
long run, I brought a great benefit to the IDF, and everyone will
understand that. Not in waving the banner, but in the message. I
didn't know that in the IDF document it is written that the role of
the army is to evict Jews. If this were the task of the army, then we
would politely part ways."
"I want to remain in the army in order to defend the nation of Israel
and its land. If they would not bring me to the situation of a
political assignment, then I don't have a problem. I, after all, did
not refuse any order, but in the moment that the army takes my
assigned battalion on an evacuation assignment, that is called
bringing me to an impossible situation. It pains me."
The protest act, he says to his associates, won the support from all
sides of the political map. "Even Leftists joined our protest,
because from their perspective this is an individual within the army,
and also other people expressed their support with reservations. I
don't have a problem that they condemned it from the Right. That is
great. That is how the Arab Israelis work. One breaks to the right,
and then afterwards the rest line up behind. I am ahead of everyone
else. If they want that I will have the role of the extremist, I will
be in the role of the extremist. We need to challenge the public."
Arbus paved the way for placard scenes in Kfir Brigade, but according
to him, it is time to update the protest methods. The banners have
been exhausted, he believes. "Another banner won't do anything. The
Brigade Commander asked me during the interview after jail which other
ideas I had in my head. I responded 'I compartmentalize you.'"
Arbus remembers his army service from the moment of the protest at the
Western Wall as a positive experience. "They honor me every place in
the army", he tells his friends, "in jail they called me 'armed', they
would let me go first in to the cafeteria. They made me a hero. Even
on other bases where I was it was the same. You do not know how wide
the consensus is in the army on this matter.
Unlike Achiya Ovadya, from the same platoon, who was dismissed from
the brigade and from the Hesder track, but remained in the army, Arbus
understood already from the beginning of the week that he was on the
way out. "They made me a non-commissioned adjutancy officer in the
Bik'ah Brigade, and I have no problem with that. Even an adjutant
contributes to the defense of the nation of Israel. I am not prepared
to see them punish a soldier because he informs them that he will not
act against his conscious. But to punish a soldier twice on the same
crime, that is already illegal."
"I have no idea why they kicked me out of the army, and other soldiers
with much more serious disciplinary problems went back to their units
after their incarceration. I feel hurt. My enlistment to the army,
in spite of my background, helped bring unify the rifts between the
different sectors in the nation of Israel and the IDF. And today when
they throw me out, I can't look my family in the eyes after I said
'they want us to help, to defend, to protect we need to enlist
together with everyone else'. And see today they kick me like a dog."
Women For Israel's Tomorrow (Women in Green)
POB 7352, Jerusalem 91072, Israel
Tel: 972-2-624-9887 Fax: 972-2-624-5380
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