Daily Israel Report

IDF Chief Rabbi: Disengagement Orders Must Be Fulfilled

The IDF Chief Rabbinate's recent proclamation against any form of "refusal to carry out orders" has aroused great anger in parts of the religious-Zionist public.
First Publish: 12/12/2004, 12:29 PM / Last Update: 12/10/2004, 9:13 AM

The issue at hand is the order that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would like to give to remove Jews from their homes in Gush Katif and northern Shomron. Many rabbis have said that these are orders that a G-d-fearing Jew must not carry out. IDF Chief Rabbi Brig.-Gen. Yisrael Weiss does not agree. "Refusal to carry out orders is liable to bring about the collapse of the army and the end of the People of Israel's task," Rabbi Weiss said on Army Radio this morning.

The Chief Rabbinate issued a proclamation to this effect earlier this month.

Rabbi Weiss said today he does not at all recognize the concept of refusing orders among religious commanders in the army. "We are forced to deal daily with difficult and painful issues regarding the evacuation issue," the Army Radio website quotes him as saying. "The army, the state is the authority. We can't allow a soldier to do whatever he wants. This will bring a danger that the army will end its function and this nation will end its task."

Rabbi Yisrael Ariel
Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, a former IDF Rabbi of the Northern Command, is aghast. "As a military rabbi, I say that this cannot be heard in the army, if this is to be a Jewish army," Rabbi Ariel told Arutz-7. "A rabbinate that says something like this pulls the rug out from under its feet."

Rabbi Ariel demands that Rabbi Weiss retract his statements. "It's not something that he cannot do. The worst that will happen is that they will fire him. After all, he's not [hired] by the Chief of Staff, or by the Prime Minister; his job is to transmit the Torah's teachings. His job is to say that a soldier is not permitted to take part in the evacuation of a Jew from the Land of Israel."

A protest was held outside the home of the IDF's Rabbi Yehuda Vizner on this issue. Noam Livnat explained why.

Rabbi Ariel quoted Maimonides, the 11th-century author of the most authoritative Jewish law code dealing with issues of a Jewish State. "Maimonides wrote in the Laws of Kings that if the king [who in general must be adhered to, according to Torah law – ed.] makes a decree to nullify a Torah commandment, he must not be listened to, because if the servant's words contradict those of the master's, we listen to the master. We must adhere to the word of G-d, and not to those of mortal man. If an army rabbi sends his soldiers to extinguish Chanukah candles, who needs such a rabbi? The Chief IDF Rabbi is turning into an axe in Sharon's hand to uproot the Torah from Israel."

Rabbi Ariel recounted that during his tenure as Northern District Rabbi, he forbade soldiers to travel in a car to their guard posts on the Sabbath. "Raful [the late IDF Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan, who was then Northern Region Commander] threatened to fire me. But in the end, the Rabbinate's stature was strengthened from this move, because our strength is in saying the truth of Torah... The Chief IDF Rabbi must [retract] these statements, or resign."

Former Chief Rabbi Avraham Shapira, and others, recently declared that soldiers must not fulfill military orders connected with Prime Minister Sharon's disengagement plan. Two months ago, Rabbi Shapira stated emphatically, "G-d-fearing policemen and soldiers should make it clear to their commanders, before the event, that just as they would not fulfill orders to desecrate the Sabbath and eat non-kosher, they similarly will not uproot Jews from their homes." Rabbi Shapira, in his 90's, is head of Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav and the senior rabbi of the religious-Zionist camp.

Rabbi Shapira said that Rabbi Aviner of Beit El, another leading rabbi of the same sector, was wrong in stating that there is a difference between desecrating the Sabbath and uprooting communities, and that the latter "sin" is not an individual issue but rather a "sin by the State."

Rabbi Aviner said that refusing such orders could lead to a collapse of the army. Rabbi Shapira rejected this, saying, "There is no such distinction... It's a sin [to uproot], and therefore it's forbidden to everyone... The army will not fall apart [as a result of soldiers refusing these orders]."