Rabbi Chaim Druckman, chairman and elder statesman of the Yeshivot Hesder Association who has been viewed as a “moderate,” has clarified his position on the burning issue in the religious-Zionist world of obeying IDF orders that conflict with Torah law. His position can be summed up as: "Refuse orders to destroy Jewish towns only if you have no other choice."
Referring to orders that soldiers occasionally receive to evict Jews and/or destroy their homes in Judea and Samaria, Rabbi Druckman told the Olam Katan (Small World) weekly synagogue pamphlet as follows:
“Soldiers must first ask to be exempted from demolishing Jewish homes, without fanfare; one must refuse only if there is no other choice."
“I tell the students that they must first ask, in an orderly manner, to be exempted from this mission, without arousing commotion. But if in the end, [if] they give you no choice and do not release you – then there is no choice. I’m saying, and this is only my opinion, that he should not do it.
“I, of course, hope that we won’t reach that situation,” Rabbi Druckman continued, “especially after the trauma of Gush Katif, which even those who favored it see that not only did it not help, it also gave us more troubles. I hope that we will have the intelligence not to make the same mistakes again, Heaven forbid, even on a smaller scale.”
"Just Like a Broken Arm"
In a meeting on Wednesday with the director of the Prime Minister's office, Eyal Gabbai, Rabbi Druckman said that though he objects in principle to refusal of orders in the army, "there are times when a person simply cannot fulfill a given order for reasons of conscience - just like someone with a broken arm cannot fulfill certain orders." Gabbai said he did not accept the comparison.
Rabbi Druckman, a former Knesset Member of the National Religious and Morashah parties, said that the issue is clearly a Halakhic [Jewish-legal] one. Rabbi David Stav, spokesperson for the Hesder Yeshivot Association, had been quoted on Voice of Israel radio – wrongly, as it turned out – as saying that the question of removing Jewish towns from Judea and Samaria is a political/diplomatic issue, and not Jewish-legal.
The Association released an announcement saying that Rabbi Stav never made such a statement: “Moreover, he emphasized at the time that the destruction of Jewish towns is a Halakhic matter, though there are other opinions by Torah giants. After the mistake was cleared up, a clarification/correction was broadcast on the radio.”
Before the clarification was issued, Rabbis Dov Lior, Eliezer Waldman and Elyakim Levanon – veteran heads of Hesder yeshivot – distanced themselves from the alleged statement, saying, “Our understanding is that the Torah of Israel absolutely forbids giving away any part of the Land of Israel to foreigners in any fashion.”
Rabbi Druckman is considered a moderating force in the ongoing dispute between the Defense Ministry and Yeshivat Har Bracha – the yeshiva that Defense Minister Ehud Barak recently ousted from the Hesder arrangement. Barak said that the yeshiva students have 60 days in which to switch to a recognized Hesder yeshiva, or else they will be drafted for full three-years of service. Hesder students usually serve for five years, of which 3.5 are spent in Torah study.
Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, who heads Yeshivat Har Bracha, is outspokenly in favor of refusing orders to destroy Jewish property and evict Jews, and Barak’s decision was considered his “punishment.” Behind-the-scenes contacts are said to be underway to find a compromise that will allow Har Bracha to be reinstated.