IDF says it is disciplining soldiers who broadcast Jewish prayers from West Bank mosque

By Philissa Cramer
December 14, 2023

(JTA) — Israeli soldiers will be disciplimed after broadcasting Jewish prayers from a West Bank mosque during a military operation there, which the Israel Defense Forces said ran counter to the army’s rules and values.

Multiple videos began circulating on Thursday showing the incident, which took place as the IDF conducted a three-day operation in Jenin, a northern West Bank city that has been a focal point of Israeli counterterrorism raids in the West Bank.

In one video, two Israeli soldiers can been inside an empty mosque, one standing on the minbar, the steps from which an imam typically projects prayer, singing the Shema into a microphone as well as a phrase declaring the primacy of God. Another shows a soldier singing into the loudspeaker from the floor while gunshots ring out outside.

Other videos capture Hanukkah songs being broadcast from a minaret on a desolate street, as someone sings along in Hebrew and laughs in the background. The minaret is used to broadcast the Muslim call to prayer, which can be heard daily in areas throughout Israel and the West Bank.

The videos have been shared by pro-Israel accounts as well as by pro-Palestinian accounts.

The incident is raising tensions at a time when Israel is seeking to fend off criticism of its war in Gaza and allegations from some that its military operations may be a pretense for ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. The destruction of mosques during Israel’s war in Gaza has also alarmed Israel’s critics. Israel ias said Hamas uses mosques for militant purposes.

The IDF responded swiftly to the videos, which show the faces of the soldiers participating, it said in a statement on Thursday that was released in Hebrew, English and Arabic.

“During IDF operational activity in close proximity to a mosque in Jenin, soldiers acted against IDF codes of conduct within a religious establishment,” the statement said.

“The soldiers were immediately removed from operational activity, after receiving the videos and after an initial inspection of the incident by commanders,” it added. “The behavior of the soldiers in the videos is serious and stands in complete opposition to the values ​​of the IDF. The soldiers will be disciplined accordingly.”

Also weighing in against the incident was Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, the Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel, who wrote to the army’s top rabbi inveighing against inappropriate activity in Palestinian Muslim religious spaces.

“The people of Israel are a virtuous people and do not behave like the actions of those murderers who massacred, showed no mercy, looted, corrupted and profaned everything that is holy and dear to us,” he wrote in a letter published by an Israeli Religious Zionist news site. “Therefore, we must exercise caution and avoid actions that are not useful for fighting and cause damage to the people of Israel and its image in the world.”

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