Rabbi Yisrael Weiss
Rabbi Yisrael WeissEitan Elhadaz

Brigadier General (res.) Rabbi Yisrael Weiss, who served as IDF chief rabbi during the 2005 "Disengagement Plan" from Gaza and northern Samaria, told Arutz Sheva in an exclusive interview Thursday about his feelings as he witnesses the harsh fighting in Gaza today, nine years after its Jewish population was expelled.

The rabbi said that there is “great pain over the fallen and with their families,” yet “the heart widens in view of the IDF's accomplishments and the overflowing national unity, and the great miracle that took place in the Divine chain of events that began with the murder of the three boys, and from there to the exposure of the tunnels that are so dangerous.”

The rabbi was referring to the view held by many, that the IDF's strong response to the triple abduction and murder of Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Sha'ar and Eyal Yifrah hy"d – Operation Brother's Keeper and the arrest of many Hamas terrorists in Judea and Samaria – led directly to the Hamas rocket barrage on Israel, as the Islamist group saw its presence in Judea and Samaria being threatened. The escalated missile attacks in turn led to Operation Protective Edge, and the failure of the terrorists' rockets to cause significant Israeli casualties prompted Hamas to make use of its vast network of "terror tunnels" to infiltrate into Israel, thus waking the IDF to the extent of the danger they pose.

"I would like to remind everyone who the enemy is, which we are confronting. The enemy seeks to annihilate, kill, destroy us, just like the greatest enemies of Israel did in the past. This is not some entity that is trying to build and be built up, but rather to uproot, just like what happened nine years ago, and everything it does is meant to destroy this nation.”

"We left Gaza and what are they doing? They have not planted a tree or built a home, but created a war. It is delusional.”

The promises made by the leaders of Israel during the leadup to the retreat from Gaza known as "the Disengagment" were a meaningful factor in his decision to cooperate with the move as Chief IDF Rabbi, he added.

"I recall now Arik Sharon, whom I asked – 'you, who planted, why are your uprooting?' He told me, 'I am an expert in matters of security, and I promise the people of Israel 40 years of quiet.' When a prime minister, Mr. Security, tells the IDF Chief Rabbi that he promises the nation 40 years of quiet, what am I supposed to make of it? That there will not be 40 hours even, or 40 seconds?”

Asked if he regrets participating in the Disengagement, he replied that all of his actions were taken under the guidance of former Sephardic chief rabbis Rabbi Ovadia Yosef ztz”l and Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu ztz”l.

"They decided that I must continue to serve in my post. That was the clear decision and even Rabbi [Avraham] Shapira ztz”l did not tell me to get rid of my uniform, or leave the military," he said, referring to the prominent religious-Zionist rabbi who passed away in 2007. "He told me that I must do everything to prevent this Disengagement from taking place. I asked him if this meant that I must leave the army and he answered 'I didn't say that.'”"

Rabbi Weiss added that the public has become much more forgiving toward him than in the past. "People understand now that they were mistaken in their harshness at that time, and that I am not the address. I was not the person who should have been marked. Even the most fervent members of the 'Orange camp' understand that the fire should not have been directed at me.

Some, he added, even came to his house to apologize, “and it warms the heart every time it happens.”