Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s deputy Matan Vilnai is waiting on Hesder yeshiva Rabbi Eliezer Melamed's decision whether or not to sign a letter drafted by Rabbi Chaim Druckman aimed at ending Barak's threat to throw the rabbi’s yeshiva out of the Hesder program. The focus of the quarrel is the Har Bracha yeshiva, which Rabbi Melamed heads.

The letter from Rabbi Druckman, head of the B’nei Akiva movement and a veteran leader in the national religious movement, opposes soldiers’ protests against expelling Jews from their homes. The demonstrations followed expulsions at Homesh, in Samaria, and in a community south of Hevron.

Rabbi Melamed wrote last month in his column in the B’Sheva weekly newspaper, “If they [protestors] had consulted with me, I would have recommended that they avoid their action.” He explained that soldiers should refuse expulsion orders but “that there is no obligation to protest, … especially in public.”

Rabbi Druckman

The first protest occurred at a swearing-in ceremony of basic trainees at the Western Wall (Kotel). Rabbi Melamed wrote in his column that if asked ahead of time, he would have advised against their action, particularly because of the opposition it aroused among IDF officers. However, he added that he “respects their actions and recognizes them for being positive and resulting in other public demonstrations. The [Hesder] soldiers are highly motivated, and the IDF would be better off with more soldiers like them.”

”We are sure that statements of the rabbi [Melamed] will be made only in line with his inner truth,” sources close to Rabbi Melamed told Israel National News. They added that Rabbi Melamed’s answer probably will be published in the B’Sheva newspaper.

“Of course, the rabbi is in favor of serving in the army and in educating students to enlist and volunteer a much as possible in combat units,” the sources added. As a spiritual leader, he obviously must express his own inner truth.”

Rabbi Druckman wrote to the heads of the Hesder yeshivas,” I feel a need to make my position clear…that we strongly oppose protests within the army that are likely, Heaven forbid, to be destructive and to undermine discipline in the army…

Our [yeshiva] students must know that along with the struggle for what is right for the Land of Israel, there are ‘red lines' and that there is no room for protests in the army. I appeal to all of you to adopt a uniform position and to clarify this issue…because all of us have a collective responsibility to the IDF, to the public in general and specifically to the Hesder yeshivas.