Defense Minister Ehud Barak
Defense Minister Ehud BarakIsrael news photo

Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced Sunday night he is throwing out the Har Bracha yeshiva, headed by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, from the Hesder yeshiva program. Barak charged the rabbi with “undermining democratic principles” and “inciting” students to refuse IDF orders to expel Jews from their homes.

The Hesder yeshiva program allows young men to service in the IDF for up to two years, instead of the usual three, and to learn at yeshiva for at least three years. The organization of the Hesder yeshivas has not commented on the historic decision by the Defense Minister, who also is chairman of the Labor party.

Picture: Rabbi Melamed   The Defense Minister said that the IDF should be kept out of political arguments, exactly the same claim made by many leading national religious rabbis concerning the decision by Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi to use soldiers to help expel Jews from their homes. Police normally undertook the expulsions until the massive forced evacuation of Jews from Gaza and northern Samaria four years ago.

Defense Minister Barak said he decided to ban Rabbi Melamed’s yeshiva from the Hesder program after consulting with IDF Chief of Staff Ashkenazi. Barak's spokesmen said he also spoke with other rabbis of Hesder yeshivas.

The organization of Hesder yeshivas said they made it clear last week to Defense Minister Barak that they opposed excluding Har Bracha from the Hesder program.

Barak said the order will not go into effect immediately in order to allow Har Bracha students to join another Hesder yeshiva.

Former High Court Justice Yaakov Turkel said on Voice of Israel government radio Sunday night said that Barak is wrong in punishing yeshiva students for the rabbi’s statements.