Leftist rabbis condemn Yaalon over Rabbi Melamed

Yaalon's ban on cooperation with leading rabbi called 'foolishness,' 'non-democratic,' and 'pyromania.'

Hillel Fendel ,

Rabbi Eliezer Melamed
Rabbi Eliezer Melamed
PR photo

The decision by Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon to outlaw any contact between the Hesder Yeshivot movement and Rabbi Eliezer Melamed continues to arouse opposition. The latest to join the outburst against Yaalon are none other than rabbis on the left wing of the political-religious scale, who generally do not accept political positions taken by Rabbi Melamed.

Rabbi Aviyah HaCohen, the spiritual leader of the religious-secular community of Eliav between Kiryat Gat and Hevron, sent a strong letter of protest to Minister Yaalon. "We expect you to act like a leader – or go home," Rabbi HaCohen wrote.

"As we all know, we are at war," he continued. "Tensions and fears are our lot for this past half-year… We are need in strong and unifying leadership, without causing fires - yet every week a new fire comes from your office against the religious-national public."

Yaalon's instructions to the Hesder Yeshivot movement stated that in light of "calls made by Rabbi Melamed for refusal of orders on various matters" – i.e., matters that conflict with Torah law – "you are asked not to have cooperation of any type with Rabbi Melamed, so that he will not be able to disseminate his teachings on these matters among the students of the Yeshivot Hesder."

Rabbi HaCohen wrote to Yaalon, "I myself am considered a person of the religious center-left, [yet] I find myself thrown into the arms of the religious public in near total solidarity in their difficult sensations. Your recent letter about Rabbi Eliezer Melamed is pyromania."

"I disagree with Rabbi Melamed regarding his ruling that soldiers must refuse orders to evacuate Jewish communities," Rabbi HaCohen wrote. "But the Disengagement happened over a decade ago; it was a trauma caused partly by undemocratic moves on the part of the government. It is something that must be cured, not repeated."

Rabbi HaCohen's brothers include leading nationalist Rabbi Re'em HaCohen and the former IDF commander of the Disengagement, Gen. (ret.) Gershon HaCohen. "Ever since the Disengagement," he wrote, "I have been following Rabbi Melamed, and he is a leader who understand that we are all in one boat and that we must take all parts of society into account. He has true leadership and calming qualities, and Israel will yet need his services. To set off another fire now is foolishness."

Rabbi HaCohen attributed Yaalon's stance against Rabbi Melamed to "hatred of the religious-Zionist public."

Another rabbi whose positions have not always been representative of the religious-Zionist Yesha public is Rabbi Ronen Noibert of Raanana. He publicized a letter in which he called "scandalous" Yaalon's blacklisting of Rabbi Melamed.

Rabbi Noibert said it is untenable to relate this way to a man "who headed an important Yeshiva that encourages students to enlist in the army and sacrifice themselves for the State, simply because of his Halakhic positions."

"Though I totally object to refusal of IDF orders for religious reasons," he continued.

In a swipe against the political Left, he added: "Shutting people's mouths is a blatant violation of democratic principles…. The first people who should rise up against [Yaalon's] letter are those who generally sing the praises of democracy – but in the meanwhile, there has been total silence from their direction." He also praised Rabbi Melamed's integrity and courage.

Other rabbis who have condemned Minister Yaalon's blacklisting of Rabbi Melamed include Rabbis Chaim Druckman, David Stav, and Benny Lau.