IDF Personnel Chief: Two Yeshivat Hesder Heads Must Quit

Maj.-Gen. Elazar Stern, whose promotion was cheered by the religious community, says that two deans of hesder yeshivot must resign - or else the army will call off their hesder arrangement.

Contact Editor
Hillel Fendel, | updated: 11:13

Stern, a graduate of the Netiv Meir yeshiva high school in Jerusalem and an observant Jew, appeared yesterday at a subcommittee meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. He said that two, out of 49, yeshivat hesder heads must resign because they called upon their students to refuse disengagement-related orders.

IDF Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Dan Halutz said similar things at a full committee session.

The sub-comittee session took a very stormy turn when MK Danny Yatom (Labor) demanded that Stern reveal the names of the two. MK Effie Eitam (Religious Zionism Renewal) said that Stern has no authority to publicize the names, as they are citizens and not soldiers. He used the term "army-run thought police" in this connection.

MK Eitam, a Brig.-Gen. in the reserves and former Galilee Formation Commander, strongly attacked Stern's approach: "The IDF must act now to mend the cracks in society, and to restore the religious soldiers' trust, and not to start settling scores or witch-hunting against thinkers who freely express their opinions. We have never heard a call to close a publicly-funded college or university because lecturers there called for refusal."

A loud argument broke out, and Eitam was even removed by the ushers. In protest, MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) also left the room. Both of them returned after a short while.

Stern said that only 63 soldiers refused disengagement orders, of whom only 24 were hesder students. It is known, however, that there was much "gray" refusal. Many soldiers who made known their intention to refuse were simply not given the orders, and the entire Golani brigade, originally slated to take a direct role in the expulsion, was later reassigned due to widespread concern among officers of mass refusal.

Stern said that the legal aspects of the call to refuse are being checked. He threatened to call of the hesder arrangement with the two yeshivot in question if their top rabbis do not resign. Stern noted that 47 other yeshiva heads did not call for refusal - although, it should be noted, some of their statements were purposely ambiguous.

Gen. Stern expressed general admiration for the 6,000 hesder students, of whom he said 88% are combat soldiers. He warned, however, that in the future, the hesder students will no longer serve in an integrated unit.