The Chief Rabbi of Tzfat, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, plans to initiate an urgent session of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, in light of the decision by Defense Minister Ehud Barak to remove the Har Brachah yeshiva from the Hesder arrangement with the army.
Rabbi Eliyahu said he will work to recruit all the rabbis of the country against Barak's decision. The Yesha Rabbis Council of Judea and Samaria, co-headed by Rabbi Dov Lior of Kiryat Arba and Rabbi Zalman Melamed of Beit El, has already announced its support of Yeshivat Har Brachah and its dean's right and obligation to teach Torah without the army telling him what not to say.
Rabbi Eliyahu similarly said that Barak has no right to attempt to undermine the independence of the yeshivot. "The Torah sages throughout the generations were willing to sacrifice themselves in order to maintain the independence of those who hand down Halakhic [Jewish legal] rulings," he said. "We expect the Chief Rabbinate to call upon all rabbis, from all camps, to stand in a united front against the Defense Minister's intentions."
One for All and All for One
Though not all rabbis in the Hesder Yeshivot Union agree with the strong stance presented by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed of Har Brachah against adhering to orders to demolish Jewish homes and expel Jews from the Land of Israel, the organization says Barak's decision is a "very grave precedent." The Union says in a statement that it will hold an emergency meeting in the coming days to discuss its response, "and we will work to make sure the decision is revoked."
One rabbi said it is expected that the rabbis will tell Barak, "We are all for one and one for all," and will not accept Barak's decision to remove the yeshiva from the Hesder arrangement.
Hesder Union rabbis also said that it appears that Barak's decision was "made in advance," and that it will act as a boomerang against him. This, because it was learned that Rabbi Melamed had drafted a response that could have been acceptable to the Defense Ministry, but it was turned down just before Barak announced his decision. Rabbi Melamed's response reiterated his previously expressed stance against public protests by soldiers-in-uniform regarding the demolitions - but Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, to whom it was addressed, told Rabbi Melamed, "It's too late; it's out of my hands."
Just hours later, on Sunday evening, Barak announced his decision removing Har Brachah from the Hesder arrangement.
It is also thought that the increasing popularity of Yeshivat Har Brachah among potential students that has been noted since the beginning of the current clash between Rabbi Melamed and the Defense Ministry will continue. In addition, it is likely that many students who under normal circumstances would have chosen the Hesder path of combining army service and Torah studies, will now choose full-time Torah learning - thus costing the army some of its best soldiers.