Rabbi Eliezer Melamed
Rabbi Eliezer MelamedIsrael news photo

As behind-the-scenes efforts continue to restore Yeshivat Har Bracha to Hesder status, Rabbi Melamed explains that he did not change his mind.

Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, head of Yeshivat Har Bracha, was among the 57 yeshiva heads who signed the unanimous Hesder Yeshivot declaration expressing opposition to political protests within the army. He was asked afterwards, on the Yeshivat Beit El yeshiva.org.il website, if this meant that he had changed his mind. His response:

“I did not change my position except for one small thing. I had written earlier that I ‘recommend not protesting within the army framework,’ and now I joined the position of most/all the rabbis expressing ‘opposition to protests within the army.’ I did this because as a member of the organization of Yeshivat Hesder heads, it is right to take into account and accept the majority opinion – on condition that the change is not a fundamental one. For instance, if they would have said that we should condemn the protestors, I would not have agreed. But since the change was small, it was right to accept the majority opinion.”

Rabbi Melamed explained that regarding compelling soldiers to violate the Sabbath, expel Jews, and the like, there has been no change at all in his position: “The other rabbis agree as well. In addition, there has been no change in my refusal to sign things under government pressure. I will not be forced by Minister Barak or an IDF general, but I will take my rabbi-colleagues’ positions into account.”

“I am happy to meet with ministers and army commanders if the meetings are arranged respectfully, and I in fact met with Deputy Minister Matan Vilnai. But if they are inappropriately arranged, as in a ‘hearing’ or ‘summons,’ or their purpose is to apply governmental pressure so that I will change my Torah-based opinion, I will not agree to take part.”

Asked why he did not make his consent to oppose protests contingent upon the restoration of Har Bracha to the Hesder program, Rabbi Melamed said, “It is not right to change a position simply to obtain something from the Defense Minister. But it is right to respect the position of the majority of rabbis with whom I share a common framework.”

Rabbi Melamed further said that although some rabbis – “I believe they were the minority” – felt that he should have shown up for the “hearing” with Minister Barak, “the rabbis made no formal decision on this matter, and therefore when [Hesder Union spokesman] Rabbi David Stav said that it would have been appropriate for me to do so, he was speaking for himself and not for the entire body.”

The Hesder rabbis resolved yesterday to oppose protests within the army and to work to rescind the removal of Har Brachah from the Hesder program. They declared that Defense Minister Barak’s decision to remove Har Bracha is a “grave one that leads to a split in the nation.”