Wednesday, March 3, 2021

IDF: Stop Persecuting Olga


Israeli Army: Stop Persecuting Olga Shamilov

19 Adar, 5781 Parshas Kee-Sissah / Porah ** March 3, '21

By Binyomin Feinberg

Olga Shamilov is an Israeli "Ba'alas Teshuva," a young woman who has rediscovered her Jewish roots.  As fully dedicated to observance of Torah Law, she has been resolutely fulfilling the obligations to resist enlistment in the Israeli Army. According to all leading Torah authorities, from across the spectrum, girls are prohibited from  enlistment in the Israeli military.  For over 16 months, since her draft date on Oct. 27, 2019, she's been braving the threat of  arrest and military incarceration. 

More recently, during Chanukah, on Teves 2, Dec. 17, 2020, the Army sent her a letter (attached) threating her with arrest, and "inviting" her to give herself in - bringing two weeks of provisions (presumably for a stint in military prison). Thus, in a state that markets itself as the Jewish State, this religious refusenik is being persecuted for her fidelity to her Torah heritage.

What's important to add here is that the Israeli Army is doing all of this without a semblance of any legal pretext. It's clear from court documentation that she's indisputably religious, a fact which even the Army didn't have any basis to even question. Furthermore, she followed procedures in filing for her religious exemption. She was nevertheless denied her religious  exemption, without a rudimentary veneer of justification.

The IDF denial of her legal entitlement to a religious military service exemption is not only blatantly illegal, it's also discriminatory abuse against her as a religious girl. There is term commonly employed to refer to that type of discriminatory misconduct: "antisemitism." A  more accurate term is "Jew Hatred" ("Sin'as Yisroel").  This form thereof, however, is Sin'as Yisroel of the worst type. This is spiritual Jew-hatred - discriminatory persecution of a girl for her faithfulness to Torah. Worse, this is "spiritual antisemitism" employed in a manner threatening to terrorize hundreds of other religious girls into forgoing the battle over their religious exemptions, and enlisting into the Israeli Army, in indisputable violation of Torah Law. It should also be noted that this is the very military where, according to Israeli government statistics, girls are far more likely to lose their Judaism than maintain it, as recently reported in several pro-Israel venues [see Matzav HaRuach, Feb.4], including the newsletter of the religious zionist organization "Chotam."

Her story first broke in The Jewish Press Nov.15, '19, p.17:

"... In related news, Olga Samilov, an 18-year-old baalas teshuva, reports that she was denied her religious exemption despite properly following procedures, at an August 14 (2019) hearing at the Tel HaShomer Draft Office.  The officer reportedly told her that the army decided not to provide her an exemption, without providing any legal rationale or pretext. Consequently, she was given a draft-date of October 27 (2019). She refused to enlist, and thus lives daily under the threat of imminent arrest. Is she being discriminated against because she's a baalas teshuvah without a support system?"*

For those wishing to daven for her, her Hebrew name is Olga bas Soroh Shirah.

One of the many lessons that the ongoing Coronavirus plague accentuates is the power of one individual to change the world.  We see how even a single infected person can spread a highly contagious disease - globally.

The last Mishna in Makkos instructs us that "Midah Tovah Merubah," Divine Beneficence by far surpasses Divine Retribution, by a scale of one to 500. If one person can potentially do so much harm, imagine how much GOOD could he or she could do. 

In physical matters we see this phenomenon clearly, and specifically in regard to Corona. Of course this plague was declared in Heaven. However, from an earthly perspective, al-pi teva, imagine how differently things could have been if the individual Chinese doctor who posted an early warning about the Coronavirus outbreak would have been properly heeded, rather than hounded by the Chinese Communists? One fearless sentinel, if heeded, could have saved the entire world from this plague.

In spiritual matters, the potential of an upright individual is arguably far greater. Just consider the Avos. Avrohom Avinu spearheaded a global theological revolution,  turning over the world, away from pagan endarkenment, towards authentic Monotheism.

Of the many positive lessons we can learn from this devastating plague, this is one. This is not to assert that this is necessarily one of the reasons for which we are being punished. However, it's clearly one crucial moral lesson we can derive.

Let us return to our topic - the blatant injustice being perpetrated against Olga Shamilov* - and individuals like her - including other long-time female refuseniks, e.g.: Ziva bas Mazal, Shuly bas R., Hodoyah bas Leemor, and N.D. - the volunteer from France reportedly lied to by IDF headhunters.

(* cf. "Ongoing IDF Anti-religious Hate Under Corona" (

These are real-life examples of the aforementioned righteous individuals. These are individuals confronting formidable, often seemingly insurmountable odds, and ultimately prevailing.  We need them -- far more than they need us. They serve as our shlichim ("agents"). By standing in their defense, we can hope to share, in some measure, in their unimaginable merit, in both this world and the next. And we need their merits now, perhaps more than ever before.

The following insights of HaRav Shamshon Refoel Hirsch OB"M, the world-renowned leader of German Jewry over a century ago, regarding Pinchos, are ever relevant to us, especially now:

"... And if someone, like Phinehas, is one among a multitude and every man is against him when he dares to speak out for truth and to fight for the Law - the more lonely his stand, the greater the number of his adversaries, the more powerful is his word, the mightier his deed. He is the savior of those against whom he struggles, a priest of atonement for those who stand by in silence, for he accomplishes what they should all have accomplished.  Though every man be against him and he stand alone, yet G-d's covenant is with him and allows not his word to be lost or his deeds to vanish without trace."

A page earlier, Rav Hirsch explains:

"As long as even one man has the courage to take up the struggle openly for G-d's cause - which is no less than the cause of man's future - it is not lost on earth and the intervention of DIVINE JUDGEMENT* is not required. He (Pinchos -Ed.) had demonstrated for all time  that whenever the sanctity of G-d and His Law is being mocked and trampled on (Chillul HaShem), EVERY* other consideration must give way."

{* emphasis absent in original}

(printed in "Judaism Eternal," translation by Dayan Dr. I Grunfeld, vol.2, p. 293 (Soncino Publ., London, 1956)), in an essay at.the end of the volume entitled "Pinchus ("Phinehas") - Eliyahu")
In the wake of the Corona magaifah (plague), most of us have experiencing "Bidud," solitary confinement, to one degree or another. But, as readers of these posts and columns know, we're not the first ones to experience such isolation. For many months, we've been reporting on numerous Israeli military draft Refuseniks, in incarceration, and sometimes punished with solitary confinement. But how many of us  really paid enough serious attention to their plight, serious enough to do something meaningful?  Does it not behoove us to take their plight to heart, which we clearly should have been doing long before the term COVID was coined? If this doesn't fit the Middah Keneged Middah profile delineated by Rashi on Brochos 5a ("Pishpaish") and Ru'ach Chaim on Avos (4:14), it's not quite clear what would. But even if it doesn't, fulfilling our individual and communal obligations to these self sacrificing individuals is something undeniably incumbent on us, regardless.

Unfortunately, instead of focusing on standing by those standing between Jewish girls and massive immoral and antireligious persecution by the Israeli Army, some of us are allowing ourselves to be largely distracted with Corona related issues, as important as some of them are. This must change. We cannot continue to abandon those standing strong against the ever escalating drafting of girls, and increasingly religious girls. We can expect one result from such ongoing obliviousness to their plights: an intensification of our own R"L. 

And we can surely perform far better than we are, far, far better. Moreover, in recent months, Israeli media [e.g. Ynet] has been covering multiple stories on the ongoing Army crusade against religious girls in particular. Chotam, an Israeli, rightwing Mizrachi-type organization, has been active in publicizing these reports. Where are we, when we have unprecedented opportunities to expose the sheer evil of the Israeli Army crusade against the next generation of Jewish mothers? "Middah Tovah Merubah!"

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