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Rivlin backs soldiers over ban on working with refugee children

Army stops activities with illegal migrants, but president says it is ‘not a sin for soldiers to lend a hand to the helpless’

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin speaks at a press conference after a session of the EU Parliament in Brussels on June 22, 2016. (AFP Photo/John Thys)
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin speaks at a press conference after a session of the EU Parliament in Brussels on June 22, 2016. (AFP Photo/John Thys)

President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday expressed support for Israeli soldiers after the army suspended their volunteer work with the children of African refugees.

“It is not a sin for soldiers to lend a hand to the helpless,” Rivlin said.

Channel 10 reported Monday that a number of soldiers serving in Military Intelligence had recently been volunteering with the Elifelet organization, which helps immigrant children in south Tel Aviv.

But the army halted the volunteer work after some Jewish residents of south Tel Aviv neighborhoods, who have long complained of the influx of poverty-stricken, mainly African foreigners in their neighborhoods, voiced anger at the soldiers’ actions, accusing them of effectively working for a “radical left-wing” group, and backing illegal immigration.

Rivlin, however, told a ceremony at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem to swear in new court justices: “It is not a sin … for Israeli soldiers to lend a hand to the helpless, such as the children of refugees whose parents may well have broken Israeli law by entering illegally, for various reasons.” But, he said, “the children are not to blame.”

Illustration. African migrants walk past the Tel Aviv central bus station. (Photo credit: Zuzana Janku / Flash90)
Illustration. African migrants walk past the Tel Aviv central bus station. (Photo credit: Zuzana Janku / Flash90)

 

The military has said is has halted the volunteer work as it looks into the matter. No final decision has been made.

Elifelet is a non-profit, award-winning organization that helps hundreds of children from migrant families who are suffering from “different levels of hunger and physical distress due to poverty.” It aims to provide food and care for such children, and protect them from racial persecution.

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