It's not unusual for Israeli kids to get dressed up as superheroes for Purim, which is celebrated next month. But some Israelis' choice of costume lays bare the divide in the country over the case of Elor Azaria, the soldier sentenced to 18 months in prison for shooting and killing a subdued assailant in Hebron in 2016.
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In a report on Channel 2, Luna Dayan, whose grandson will be dressing up as Azaria, expressed the view that while the soldier did not conduct himself properly in shooting the attacker, he is a hero nevertheless.
"He took the initiative. The commanders were not at the scene, the scene was not handled as it should have been and he took charge," Dayan said. "We are protecting our boys so they are not abandoned in the field."
Abdel Fattah al-Sharif and an accomplice stabbed a soldier in Hebron last March. Sharif was then subdued by Israeli forces and was lying on his back, immobilized, when Azaria shot him. Azaria was convicted of manslaughter last week after a military court rejected his claim that he feared that Sharif still posed a threat. But many in Israel, including leading public officials, have said the country should back up its soldiers as they defend the country. There have also been widespread calls to pardon Azaria.
Dayan's grandson will not be the only child dressing up as Azaria this year. Channel 2 also reported that Ran Karmi Buzaglo, a leader of the public campaign in support of Azaria, has launched an Elor Azaria Purim costume competition. Those who enter can win prizes including an overnight stay at a bed and breakfast, a guitar and amusement park tickets, all contributed by citizens who had heard about the contest.
Dressing up as Elor Azaria is a statement, Buzaglo told Channel 2 – even one of defiance: "Elor Azaria is a soldier who was sent to defend us, and I am proud to see children dressing up as him."