WE CANNOT LET A YESHIVA/SHUL IN ISRAEL BE DESTROYED
By Rabbi Pesach Lerner, Executive Vice President,
National Council of Young Israel, email@example.com
Dear Fellow Jews:
We cannot let a yeshiva/shul in Israel be destroyed. Allow me to explain.
The following article appeared on Arutz Sheva news on Sunday, May 9, 2010:
The IDF's Civilian Administration issued a demolition order Sunday against the spacious building that houses Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva at Yitzhar, in Samaria.
Local residents believe that authorities are purposely punishing the yeshiva because of a confrontation with the IDF that took place on Independence Day, and also because security forces hold the yeshiva's students responsible for various attacks against Arabs in recent months and years, including the burning of a carpet in a mosque at the nearby village of Yassuf.
“It turns out that the authorities are making special efforts to hurt the yeshiva in an unfair and vindictive way,” a yeshiva spokesman said Sunday. “It should be noted that the building is an ornate permanent structure, with an area of 1,300 square meters, which was built with the aid of the Ministry of Housing and was approved by the various authorities to serve as an educational institution.”
The destruction order, the residents said, cited an 11 year old work-stoppage order – one that they had never heard of until now. The building took years to build and cost over $1 million.
I could not believe what I was reading. How could it possibly be that in Israel, Jews were going to destroy a yeshiva/shul building?
As I researched the situation and tried to ascertain what exactly was transpiring, it seemed obvious that the Israeli government was using the pretext of a seemingly 11-year old building violation to punish the yeshiva and its students who seemingly have become a nuisance to the government.
But to destroy a yeshiva - a place of Tefillah and Torah study - in Israel? In the event that something was amiss and the situation had to be rectified, perhaps the individuals responsible should be held accountable, but to destroy a yeshiva is quite excessive.
Besides the Chilul Hashem, which is severe in its own right, what will we tell the Europeans the next time they want to destroy an old shul, for whatever reasons they may have? Does the Israeli government destroy a public school in Tel Aviv when its students are involved, chas v’shalom in some sort of wrongdoing?
I had planned to be in Israel that week, so upon my arrival, I contacted the Rosh HaYeshiva of the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva, which has been in Yitzhar for almost 10 years, since its original home, Joseph's Tomb in Shechem, was abandoned by the Israeli army and destroyed by the Arabs. Rabbi Yitzchok Shapira, the Rosh HaYeshiva, told me that the yeshiva had in fact received a demolition order, based on a violation from 11 years ago - a violation which they knew nothing about. (see attached copy of demolition order).
Rabbi Shapira invited me to visit the yeshiva and offered to have someone pick me up. I accepted the offer, and the next afternoon, I was picked up by Rabbi Dan Marans, whom I personally know in his capacity as the director of the Zomet Institute in Alon Shvut. We drove through the Shomron to the community of Yitzhar, which is on a strategic mountaintop, overlooking Har Greizim, quite a distance from the main road.
The yeshiva building, a beautiful multi-floored structure, stood away from the community, in its own space. The building was built entirely by Jewish workers, many of whom were former yeshiva students. The main study hall was large, the library was in the back, the lunchroom was on the lower level, and the yeshiva offices and classrooms were on the upper level. (please see attached pictures)
I met with the Rosh HaYeshiva, Rabbi Yitzchok Shapira and the yeshiva director, Itamar Pozen. They shared with me the tzav harisa, the destruction order, and a package of documents proving their legal status (attached), and the fact that numerous departments in the Israeli government participated in the building of the yeshiva. How can we be illegal, they asked, if the government put in the infrastructure, if the government authorized the mortgage, etc.
We discussed their speculations as to why the government, 11 years after they claimed there was a building violation, was just now threatening to destroy the yeshiva building. Rabbi Shapira told me that the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva has been teaching its students for many years that every Jew must be “mutually responsible” for every other Jew. This movement of “mutual responsibility” threatens the government. They want us to stop promoting this idea so they are trying to distract and silence us by destroying our building
The idea that Jews would destroy yeshiva/shul buildings under any circumstances is reprehensible. If a European country threatened to destroy a shul under the pretext of a building code violation, Jews from all walks of life – Orthodox and non-Orthodox – would demand that the order be cancelled. The protests against such an inconceivable act would be loud and numerous.
During my visit to the yeshiva, I noticed large plaques with the names of two individuals who made large contributions to assist in the building of the yeshiva. I contacted both families and they each told me that prior to making donations to the yeshiva to help defray the costs of the construction, they had seen official documents verifying that the yeshiva had government approval to build.
I spoke to numerous roshei yeshiva and community rabbis in Israel, and they all agreed that Jews must not destroy yeshivas/shuls. I spoke to various Israeli government officials, all of whom could not understand how such an order could be given.
Dear friends, the yeshiva administration, the regional councils, etc., are all challenging this destructive order. Individuals within the government are asking questions, but we have a responsibility to do all that we can to ensure that this order gets overturned. We must publicly urge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to forcefully and publically rescind this order. We cannot sit back and allow a yeshiva, a beautiful center of Torah and Tefillah, to be destroyed.
Each of us must send daily emails, send daily faxes, and make daily phone calls to the Prime Minister of Israel protesting this inconceivable action. People need to send letters to the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC and to the Israeli Consulate in New York.
We must demand that our community organizations, our rabbis, our entire community, speak out. We cannot allow this Chilul Hashem, this desecration of G-d’s name, to take place. Please send an email, send a fax, and make a call, now. Tell the Prime Minister to protect the yeshiva building in Yitzhar and prevent it from being destroyed.
And, in the merit of our speaking out, of caring for our fellow Jews and our Torah institutions, may we merit Shalom al Yisrael, peace in Israel.
Contact Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu at:
011-972-2-670-5532 (attention: Tzvi Hauser, Cabinet Secretary of the Israel government)
Fax (send to all three numbers) –
011-972-2-563-2580 (attention: Tzvi Hauser, Cabinet Secretary of the Israel government)
Email (send to all three email addresses) –
firstname.lastname@example.org (attention: Tzvi Hauser, Cabinet Secretary of the Israel government)
email@example.com (underscore after pm)