Lieberman orders halt of IDF volunteer work with illegal migrants
Residents of south Tel Aviv managed to convince top brass to order the military to cease all volunteer activities with children of foreign workers and asylum seekers; 'When I saw the soldiers playing with these children, I felt betrayed,' says one resident.
Ynet's sister publication Yedioth Ahronoth has learned that in closed talks last week, Lieberman told IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot: "If soldiers have free time, let them help Holocaust survivors or the needy, charity begins at home."
Over the last few years, many military units have often engaged in volunteer activities, including with children of foreign workers. Standing out in particular is the elite Special Forces unit Sayeret Matkal, whose soldiers and commanders have organized a day of fun for the kids of the Rogozin school. The IDF took great pride in the event and even published an article about it in the military monthly magazine Bamahane.
Those who were less enthusiastic about the activities were residents of south Tel Aviv, who have been stubbornly resisting the presence of the illegal Africans.
Over the last few weeks, residents have been complaining about IDF soldiers playing with the children of foreign workers and refugees, and even posted pictures of Intelligence Corps soldiers to Facebook playing with children in a garden in the Shapira neighborhood.
The residents lament the fact that instead of deporting illegal immigrants, the IDF sends soldiers to play with them.
"This is one of the most unacceptable things for the IDF and the State of Israel to do," said May Golan, who heads a group fighting against the presence of illegal migrants in Tel Aviv. "When the IDF takes such a position on such a painful subject, it is a mistake. The IDF is an official and moral state body that is supposed to protect the law and the nation, but by volunteering with children of foreign workers, they are ignoring the illegal status of these people. When I saw the soldiers with these children, I felt betrayed. This is a political matter that soldiers should not interfere with."
Angry residents turned to Deputy Minister of Defense Eli Ben-Dahan, who conveyed their plight to the IDF Chief of Staff and Minister of Defense. In response, the IDF halted volunteer activities with children of migrant workers until the issue could be re-examined.
President Reuven Rivlin also addressed the matter, saying "it is no sin that IDF soldiers offered their assistance to helpless refugee children," after having learned that the Minister of Defense favored the position of the residents of south Tel Aviv and ordered a stop to such activities.
The Intelligence Corps soldiers who volunteered with the children don't understand the outrage. "It was a great day and taught (us) a lot," said one of the soldiers. "I discovered people that were dealing with great difficulties, and I was happy to help them for a day. It is important to me that soldiers volunteer with them because it allows us to see them in a different light and contribute to those in need."