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Hesder Yeshiva Quits Army

The “unanimous” Hesder Yeshivot declaration of earlier this week was apparently not so unanimous – and has led at least one yeshiva to quit.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 12/23/2009, 10:34 AM / Last Update: 12/23/2009, 10:44 AM

The “unanimous” Hesder Yeshivot declaration of earlier this week was apparently not so unanimous – and has led at least one yeshiva to quit.

The head of the Yeshivat Hesder in the Negev city of Arad, Rabbi Yinon Ilani, has sent a letter to the Union of Hesder Yeshivot, asking to be removed from both the Union and the Hesder arrangement with the army. Rabbi Ilani explains, “I apparently do not understand the decision that was made in the honorable forum of all the Yeshiva deans on Sunday, and therefore, to my great sorrow, and despite the great price our yeshiva will have to pay, I cannot be a party to something that I do not understand.”
Meanwhile, the students of Har Bracha have 60 days in which to find another Hesder yeshiva, or else they will be drafted for full three-year service.

The “price” referred to by Rabbi Ilani is a monthly per-student stipend of hundreds of shekels from the Defense Ministry to the Hesder yeshivot.

Rabbi Ilani was one of the very few Hesder yeshiva heads who did not take part in the meeting on Sunday. The decision made there stated clear opposition to protests within the army, and also resolved to work to restore Yeshivat Har Bracha, headed by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, to the Hesder arrangement. The statement did not say that Torah law stands above army commands.

Meanwhile, an IDF memo reported on IDF Army Radio indicates that the Hesder declaration has not brought about the desired conciliation with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and the Defense Ministry; the opposite is the case. The memo states that the students of Har Bracha have 60 days in which to find another Hesder yeshiva, or else they will be drafted for full three-year service.

Hesder students generally serve for five years, including about 18 months in active duty, and the remainder studying Torah.

'Deans Can't Find Way to Integrate Both?

The final straw for Rabbi Ilani and his yeshiva was apparently words of explanation added after the Sunday meeting by Union spokesman Rabbi David Stav.

“Rabbi Stav said to the media that the Union is obligated to both State law and Torah law,” Rabbi Ilani wrote, “but that it is not yet clear how to integrate both of them. If the Yeshiva heads cannot decide the proper approach, then what can be expected from a simple soldier? Why not say clearly: ‘We are loyal to the State and its laws as long as they do not contradict our holy Torah; every law that opposes the Torah is blatantly illegal?’”

Rabbi Ilani feels that ideally, protests against orders to evict Jews and destroy their property should be carried out by the rabbis and not by the students – “but since we, the rabbis, did not sound our opinion clearly, the students burst out in ‘holy brazenness’ and do our work [by protesting]… It is the government that is responsible for these protests, by ordering the soldiers to carry out political missions that are against Jewish Law.”

Rabbi Nixes Anti-Protest Call
“The call [by the rabbis] against protests in the army is not appropriate for this period,” Rabbi Ilani wrote, “especially when we are beginning a campaign for the very existence of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, and when the approach towards the residents is as if they were genuine enemies – to the point where I cannot even be sure that orders will not be given to fire on opponents of the construction freeze orders.”

The reference is to an IDF plan that was publicized this week, showing that the IDF is planning something close to war against the Jewish population of Judea and Samaria (Yesha) regarding the enforcement of the construction-freeze orders. The document indicates that the army is planning to enforce the freeze with the help of six brigades, the entire Border Guard forces of Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, Israel Air Forces helicopters and drones, the Shabak (Shin Bet) and police, intelligence forces, and IDF reserve units.