Former SLA soldiers protest conditions in Israel
About 100 Southern Lebanese Army veterans living in Israel demonstrate outside Kirya army base in Tel Aviv against apparent discrimination based on military ranks. Lieutenant colonels and higher assisted by Defense Ministry, lower ranks by Ministry of Immigration Absorption
On Sunday, approximately 100 SLA soldiers and their family members demonstrated opposite the David Gate at the Kirya base in Tel Aviv.
The soldiers are protesting against what they claim is the discrimination caused by the Israeli government in 2003 when it decided to divide their treatment between two different governmental offices according to military ranking.
The protesters feel betrayed by the Defense Ministry, which they believe abandoned them after many years of service.
Today, an SLA soldier ranking lieutenant colonel and higher receives treatment from the Defense Ministry and those ranked lower receives assistance from the Immigrant Absorption Ministry.
“We want the minimum that we deserve. I am not a new immigrant, I fought, served in the army and I deserve to be treated by the Defense Ministry. This is what we want. You can’t throw people at the Immigrant Absorption Ministry,” said a former SLA officer.
“We are fighting now in order to live as we should, we can’t do this,” said Claire, who spent her service in the SLA's communications branch and who has felt abandoned ever since the pullout.
'We had true peace with Israel'“I came here eight years ago with my husband and children, we were in the SLA, we had true peace with Israel. After the IDF pullout from Lebanon we didn’t know what to do, they neglected us.
“We came to this country and we know that people receive all their rights here. For eight years they didn’t know how to absorb us like they should have; they divided us,” she said in sorrow.
Claire, who lives in Nahariya, has been the sole caretaker of her four children since her husband died.
Protesting for equality (Photo: Ofer Amram)
Hakim, who served as an SLA officer for 15 years, was one of the protest’s organizers. He claimed that for lack of a better choice, some of the families returned to Lebanon and ended their lives in jail.
“We are asking for equality; what is happening now is unjust. We worked with the Defense Ministry, not with the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, and they threw us out like dogs," he said.
“There are 460 families with nothing to eat. We have no one to represent us; if I have a problem I have no one to turn to, we are thrown up into the air.”
Marwan, who also participated in the demonstration, lives with his wife and three children in Carmiel. He served in the SLA for two years prior to the pullout and said he is worried about the influence the parents’ situation will have on the children in the future.
“We reached a point where a lot of people aren’t working, and we cannot continue living this way because it is really hard.
“I pay NIS 2,000 (about $560) a month for rent and I don’t work, they fired me because of a problem I have with my shoulder and now I receive income support of NIS 2,400 (about $670). They are going to lower the amount. How can I provide my children with food?”
The younger generation took part in the demonstration as well. Carmiel resident Farin, 16, joined her father at the rally.
“My father is a fighter, we are demonstrating for ourselves; for the generations to come who will live here in peace. I thought that we would go back to Lebanon but as the years pass, I see that it’s not happening.
“I have family in Lebanon, but now there are wars so it is better if we don’t return. My father served for 25 years and today he works in a garbage truck; is that a job for someone who served in the SLA? It’s not fair.”