Rabbi Melamed Not Afraid of Defense Ministry

Rabbi E. Melamed, outspokenly against fulfilling orders to raze Jewish homes, is not afraid gov't will oust his yeshiva from "hesder" arrangement.

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Hillel Fendel, | updated: 18:43

Rabbi E. Melamed
Rabbi E. Melamed
Israel news photo

Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, who has called publicly upon soldiers to refuse orders to destroy Jewish homes, says he is not afraid the government will remove the yeshiva he heads from the "hesder" arrangement.

In a rare media interview on Monday – he has said that the media often distorts the remarks of its interviewees, so why bother? – he told Arutz Sheva's Shimon Cohen that he will continue to "speak the truth as I see it, based on the Torah." Rabbi Melamed's weekly Torah-and-current-events column was recently announced as the most widely-read column in the weekly B'Sheva newspaper.

"It's hard for me to believe that they would actually close or detach our yeshiva from the hesder program," Rabbi Melamed said. Students in the five-year program serve in the army for 16-18 months, and study in yeshiva for the remainder of the period.

The interview came a day after IDF Central Commander Gen. Avi Mizrachi called for the closing of the hesder program in Rabbi Melamed's yeshiva, Har Brachah in the Shomron. Gen. Mizrachi took offense at Rabbi Melamed's remarks that corruption abounds within the ranks of the IDF officers, and that the top officers are concerned with "their pensions, careers and politics."

Mizrachi said, "This is what Rabbi Melamed teaches in his yeshiva. I will act that this yeshiva be removed from the hesder program, and whoever wants to study there can continue to do so [and not be in the army]."

Rabbis are not soldiers
Rabbi Melamed said that not only were his words taken out of context, but also, "There are some commanders in the army who think that the rabbis are their soldiers and that their job is to answer Amen to whatever the officers say. They don't understand that the yeshivas are independent institutions, and that the rabbis' job in the yeshiva is to speak the truth according to their understanding based on the study of Torah. We will insist on our right and obligation to do that."

"It would be hard to believe that the army would be so crazy as to stop our arrangement with the army. Let's not forget that there are universities and colleges to where IDF soldiers and officers are sent for courses and even for degrees – even though one can often hear there very sharp attacks against the IDF, even including saying that the IDF carries out Nazi policies… I don't believe that they would close us down, but I personally will say what I believe even if it costs me my job as head of the yeshiva."

"If a rabbi cannot say what he believes, then he will be considered a rabbi-for-hire who will never be able to know for sure if he's saying what he truly believes or is just the result of how the government might react."

Qouted out of context
Rabbi Melamed corrected a misimpression communicated by some IDF officers: "Hesder yeshivot are not an integral part of the army. They are independent yeshivot in every sense, in the framework of which students enlist in the army."

Regarding the corruption he said he finds among IDF officers, the rabbi explained that he was quoted partially and out of context: "I was responding to soldiers who had just gone through the trauma of the expulsion of Gush Katif, and they were asking about the proper approach to the senior army commanders who were part of the Disengagement. I told them that the mitzvah of enlisting in the army still applies."

The selection by Rabbi Melamed in which he wrote, "It's been years that for many officers, personal advancement is their principal goal," was preceded by this:

"The mitzvah of defending the nation and land even at the risk to one's life still very much applies – and this can only be done in a national army framework. Therefore, even if the top brass is problematic, it is better to stand together against our enemy than to break down and surrender. For with all the criticism, the general goal of the politicians and commanders is to protect the Nation of Israel. The risk of coming under the command of corrupt commanders is less than the risk of detracting from our military strength… We must therefore strengthen ourselves in Torah deeds and enlist in the army to help our nation."

The other hesder yeshiva deans are united on the need to ensure that no one silence them or control what they say – even though they have different opinions on the matter at hand. "There are those who support me very strongly," Rabbi Melamed said, "and they have called me, or even spoke out in the media. There are those who think we should condemn the yeshiva soldiers who unfurled the banners [in favor of refusing demolition orders] – but they too feel no yeshiva must be removed from hesder because of the rabbis' opinions. They are aware, as we all are, that though this is the issue today, tomorrow it might be another one…"