Rabbi Eliezer Melamed
Rabbi Eliezer MelamedIsrael news photo

Har Brachah Hesder yeshiva Rabbi Eliezer Melamed told Arutz 7 that he did not accept Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s summons to a “hearing” Sunday evening because discussions cannot be conducted under “tyrannical” pressure. He also said he never advised students to protest expulsion orders from within the IDF.

The Defense Minister announced Sunday night he is tossing the yeshiva out of the Hesder program, that combines Torah study with army service, because Rabbi Melamed refused to sign a letter condemning protests by soldiers against IDF orders that they be involved in police actions to expel Jews from their homes.

Defense Minister Barak issued the summons Sunday morning after Rabbi Melamed did not meet his deadline to sign a letter condemning protests by soldiers. The letter was drafted by national religious Rabbi Chaim Druckman.

Rabbi Melamed explained that he agrees in principle with the letter but did not sign it because of its tone. “I understand and respect the protestors…but think they should limit their demonstrations to civilian actions and not within the IDF,” the rabbi said.

He also refused to sign the letter because of the manner in which Barak acted. “One must not sit down in discussion under government pressure, and a rabbi must be able to express his inner truth. What would happen if a rabbi reasoned that soldiers have an obligation to protest in public ceremonies? Would the rabbi have to remain quiet and hide his opinion, which he has an obligation to express?

“I will not surrender to Barak’s tyrannical pressure and that is why did not agree to attend a 'hearing” under an ultimatum, expressions that that show no respect towards those who deserve the freedom of thought and expression.”

Rabbi Melamed reiterated that he never advised students to raise protest signs against expulsions and specifically stated after the first protest several weeks ago that “there is no obligation to demonstrate specifically at a swearing-in ceremony.”

He was referring to combat soldiers from a Hesder yeshiva who raised a sign that their unit “does not expel Jews from Homesh,” the site of the destroyed town in northern Samaria where the IDF recently participated in expelling Jews, often desecrating the Sabbath. Jews have established a yeshiva the site and have maintained a presence there for three years.

“If they [the soldiers} had asked me, I would have advised against" the protest action, he said, adding that after the fact, "I respect their acts and recognize the positive side that results from public protests.”

Rabbi Melamed added that in order to make sure his position was clear, he asked approximately 50 students to express their understanding of his opinion. “Everyone, except for one student, replied that I am not encouraging them to demonstrate.”

The dispute with the military establishment began when the IDF Manpower commander demanded that Hesder yeshiva rabbis totally disassociate themselves from protests and refusal to obey orders to expel Jews from their homes, according to Rabbi Melamed.

“Rabbi Druckman agreed with their [the IDF’s] position and wrote a letter that Defense Minister Barak and his deputy Matan Vilnai demanded that I sign,” Rabbi Melamed said.

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