Itamar Posen, director of the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva in Yitzhar, criticized the Education Ministry on Wednesday over its decision to halt the government funding of the yeshiva and close down the Dorshei Yechudcha high school-age yeshiva ketana.
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Education’s outgoing Director General, Dr. Shimon Shoshani, sent a letter to the yeshiva notifying them of the decision. It was the last day of his term of office.
Shoshani said his decision had been made based on a recommendation by the Israel Security Agency (ISA), which had accused students at the yeshiva of violent, illegal activities against area Arabs and Israeli security forces. He claimed the ISA has presented him with confidential material that justifies the decision, but has refused to disclose that information so that the yeshiva’s administration can refute it.
Posen, who spoke to Arutz Sheva, said that the yeshiva was able to refute many claims that had been made against it in the past, so long as they were able to actually see the materials in question.
“Unfortunately, they are claiming that they have confidential reports, but we cannot defend ourselves against things that are confidential,” Posen said. “I told the Education Minister that a yeshiva cannot be closed based on confidential reports.”
The Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva is headed by Rabbi Yitzchak Shapira, who authored the book Torat Hamelech which contains his interpretations of Jewish law regarding the use of force when dealing with enemies. Although the book makes no direct mention of Arabs, some have said that the book incites to kill Arabs.
Rabbi Shapira has previously been arrested by police for questioning over the book. Other rabbis who gave their stamp of approval to the book, a routine measure when a book is logically coherent halakhically, have also been arrested and later released.
In his letter, Shoshani used the Torat Hamelech book as an excuse to justify his decision to shut down the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva, but Posen rejected this excuse.
“The prosecution has already decided that there is nothing problematic about the book,” he said. “They’ve interrogated everyone, including Rabbi Shapira, and haven’t indicted anyone. They do nothing against Arab schools but they claim that we are acting against the values of the State of Israel.”
Posen said the yeshiva will continue to operate and evolve despite the ministry’s decision.
“We haven’t been receiving any funds from the ministry for the past year anyway,” he said. “We will continue to work legally and politically against this decision. Rabbi Shapira has said that sometimes decrees such as this lead to a bigger blessing.”
Finally, Posen said that Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who is a member of the Likud party, should remember who elected him to office.
“The Minister of Education was elected by the right and he is now operating against a place that represents the freedom of religious thought,” Posen said. “So far all the arrests and interrogations have yielded nothing. To close an institution because of Torat Hamelech means that he, as Minister of Education, supports a policy of closing a religious institution in Israel because of a book that the leftists do not like.”