Rabbi Chaim Druckman
Rabbi Chaim DruckmanIsrale news photo

A day after the rabbi said soldiers must refuse orders to demolish Jewish homes, the Civil Commission fired him as Head of the Conversion Authority - “because of his age.”

The Civil Commission says the decision was made well before Rabbi Druckman made his position on refusal known, and that the two were unrelated. The Commission says that Rabbi Druckman’s age, 77, makes a renewal of his term unfeasible, as does the fact that he has several other positions of responsibility.

No comment was immediately available from President Shimon Peres, age 86.

Rabbi Druckman attempted to mediate in the recent dispute between Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, head of Yeshivat Har Bracha, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, after Rabbi Melamed called for refusal of evict-and-demolish orders, did not condemn in-army protests, and spoke disparagingly of careerist army officers. He was apparently unsuccessful, however, as Barak has still not rescinded his order removing the yeshiva from the special Hesder arrangement allowing students to combine Torah study with army service.

Since then, Rabbi Druckman has clarified his own opinion on refusal, saying, “Soldiers must first ask to be exempted from demolishing Jewish homes, without fanfare; if there is no other choice, however, he must refuse.”

According to the reports, Rabbi Druckman will leave his position as Head of the Conversion Authority at the end of this month. Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar has asked for an urgent meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to discuss the matter, and Netanyahu himself is said to be already working to change the decision.

"National Scandal"

MK Uri Ariel (National Union) said, "The decision not to renew our rabbi and teacher Rabbi Druckman's term is a scandal on a national level. The Prime Minister must intervene. Those who are concerned with the honor of the Turkish Ambassador should certainly respect and honor rabbis, and especially Rabbi Druckman, regarding whose merits and achievements there is a national consensus."

Rabbi Chaim Druckman was born in pre-World War II Poland, and was spirited out under a false name to the Land of Israel in 1942 at the age of 10. He later was one of the first students in the first Hesder yeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh, and later founded the high school and hesder yeshiva in Or Etzion, served as a Knesset Member from 1977 to 1988, and again from 1999 until 2003, and became the head of the Yeshivot Bnei Akiva movement and the Association of Hesder Yeshivot.

Har Bracha and Hesder

Regarding the removal of Yeshivat Har Bracha from the Hesder program, sources in the yeshiva said they know of no behind-the-scenes progress in reaching a compromise or rescinding of the decision. The yeshiva has filed a suit with the Supreme Court against the removal, which is to be heard on January 27.