Religious soldiers jailed after refusing to visit Rabin’s grave, going AWOL
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Religious soldiers jailed after refusing to visit Rabin’s grave, going AWOL

Four servicemen sentenced to 14 days in prison after they refuse to visit the burial site of Israel's assassinated PM while on an army trip

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Flowers lay on the grave of late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin during a memorial service marking 21 years since his assassination, held at Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem on November 4, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Flowers lay on the grave of late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin during a memorial service marking 21 years since his assassination, held at Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem on November 4, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Four IDF soldiers received a 14-day prison sentence after they refused to visit the grave of assassinated prime minister and former IDF chief of staff Yitzhak Rabin and later left their base without permission earlier this month, the army said Thursday.

The trip to Rabin’s burial site in Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl cemetery was conducted on June 6 as part of basic training for the Artillery Corps, in which the four soldiers served.

“Four of the soldiers decided to refuse the order and not go up to the grave, and after they returned to base and had a conversation with their commanders, they decided to leave the base,” the army said in a statement.

On Wednesday, the soldiers returned to base and were subjected to a court martial, the army said.

They were sentenced to 14 days in prison, with an option to extend the punishment by an additional six days, depending on the soldiers’ behavior.

In a statement, the military said the soldiers’ commander saw the incident as “serious” and said their actions “did not adhere to the values of the IDF.”

The four soldiers in question were part of a program run through the military, known in Hebrew as hesder, in which they divide their time between religious study and army service.

Rabin is a divisive figure for much of Israel’s national-religious community.

Prime minister Yitzhak Rabin addresses the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York, October 24, 1995. (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler)

The former prime minister was assassinated in 1995 by right-wing extremist Yigal Amir.

In the months before the murder, Rabin was regularly lambasted by national-religious leaders for his role in the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians in 1993.

In Israel, the incitement against Rabin — in speeches by religious and public leaders and in posters in which he was made to look like a Nazi officer — is seen as contributing to Amir’s decision to carry out the assassination.

The Oslo Accords established the Palestinian Authority and were meant to lay the groundwork for an eventual resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

This was opposed by much of the national-religious community as it would require Israel to relinquish control of the West Bank, the biblical homeland of the Jewish people.

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