Daily Israel Report

Rabbinic Opposition To "Disengagement"

Two influential former Chief Rabbis of the State of Israel made their opposition to the Prime Minister's unilateral withdrawal program public and unequivocal on the eve of today's Likud referendum.
First Publish: 5/2/2004, 5:26 PM / Last Update: 5/2/2004, 11:06 AM

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef reiterated Saturday night his opposition to the Prime Minister's plan and called on Likud members to vote against it. Rabbi Yosef, spiritual head of the Shas party, is widely regarded as a leading Torah scholar, whose decisions and opinions carry significant weight in both the Torah-observant community and amongst traditional Sephardic Jews, many of whom are Likud voters..

Former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu released an impassioned letter to the public on Friday wherein he states: "On Sunday a referendum is due to take place of all Likud members, dealing with our faith and security in G-d, and dealing with our grasp of Eretz Yisrael. ...We request that all teachers in all the schools and yeshivot spend time praying with their students, to strengthen the hearts of the voters, that they should vote with faith in G-d and with security in His Holy Name, with love. We pray also to strengthen the hearts of all those working with great dedication over the past few weeks, encouraging those who may be weak and hold up failing knees...." The letter was also signed by Rabbi Dov Lior of Kiryat Arba.

Many Hareidi and Hassidic rabbis have also made their position against the evacuation known. These include: leading Halakhic (Jewish legal) authority Rabbi Shalom Yosef Elyashiv; Kabbalists Rabbi Yitzchak Kaduri and Rabbi David Batzri; former Chief Rabbi Avraham Shapira; rabbis of Chabad; and others. The head of the influential and large Sanz Hassidic sect, the Sanzer Rebbe, Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Halberstam, characterized the Prime Minister's "disengagement" plan as part of efforts to uproot Judaism itself. The religious leaders of Ethiopian Jewry in Israel - the Keisim - have also called upon their followers to vote against the evacuation plan.

A prayer for Gush Katif distributed with Rabbi Eliyahu's letter says, in part, "We thank you, G-d, L-rd of our fathers, for all the good that you have granted us, and especially in the past years, when the evil ones of the nations try to weaken our spirit and weaken our grasp on the holy land and that they do not succeed. And while they launched thousands of death missiles at Gush Katif, You, in your great mercy, helped, saved, and shielded us with revealed miracles. And now we are threatened, and they are frightening us and trying to separate us from the land that was sworn to our forefathers. That we should flee and give into their hands houses full of good that they did not build, vineyards and olive groves that they did not plant. And all of this in order to fulfill their evil thoughts, to expel us from our land."

"...Please G-d, be merciful with us, and with all the citizens of the holy land. Look from the heavens and see those learning your Torah, in holiness and purity, in yeshivot, Talmudei Torah (religious grade schools), and other Torah institutions. Have mercy on them and on the synagogues, that they should not become mosques, or other places of worship, G-d forbid. Remember all the residents of these regions who gave their lives in order to fulfill the verse of the holy Torah, 'And you inherited it and settled it.' Remember all your beloved sons and daughters who were murdered and burned and wounded for your great and holy Name, which is upon them. Remember the pure children who knew not sin who were killed, wounded and injured by those who hate You."

"...Please G-d, our father, the father of mercy, show that there are those who love You in this world. Have mercy on the residents of Gush Katif and on all of Beit Yisrael. That they should not be expelled from their land, as you promised us through the prophet Amos, 'And you were planted on your land, and you will not be taken from your land ever again, that I gave to them, said the L-rd, G-d.'"