Woman confronts soldiers at expulsion
Woman confronts soldiers at expulsionIsrael News Photo: Flash 90

Leading national religious rabbis called on soldiers Wednesday night to refuse orders that involve them in the destruction of Jewish hilltop communities and the expulsion of those living there.

Their call sparked a protest in the mass media and among several political leaders, similar to the storm that raged over the same issue during the period of the expulsions from Gaza and northern Samaria in 2005 and in Amona two years ago.

Kiryat Arba-Hevron Chief Rabbi Dov Lior and Beit El Chief Rabbi Zalman Melamed were among those who wrote a statement that said “the holy Torah prohibits taking part in any act of uprooting Jews from any part of “our sacred land.”

In radio interviews Thursday morning, Ichud Leumi (National Union) Knesset Member Michael Ben-Ari and officials of the Council of Rabbis for communities in Judea and Samaria (Yesha) explained that Israel was established because of the Torah and therefore one cannot carry out policies that are against it.

The rabbis conferred at the small community of Givat Asaf, one of the 26 sites that Defense Minister Ehud Barak has vowed to destroy, by force if necessary.

An official for the Council of Yesha Rabbis added, "The government is ruled by non-Jews like [President Barack] Obama and that is our weakness. It is not Jewish sovereignty. They are throwing sand in our eyes with their declarations.”

Most of the outposts are hilltop sites, some of which are full-fledged communities comprised of dozens of families. The government already has prepared orders telling residents to leave voluntarily or face police and soldiers, similar to the force used last week at the Maoz Esther outpost in Samaria.

The same calls for refusing to carry out what the rabbis define as illegal orders resulted in a fierce debate in 2005 as the government prepared tens of thousands of security forces to expel nearly 10,000 Jews from two dozen communities in the Gaza region and part of northern Samaria.

The issue has become increasingly significant because a growing number of combat officers come from national religious institutions.

Several national religious leaders, such as Moshe Hagar, who heads the group of two dozen pre-army Torah academies (Mechina), previously opposed disobeying orders. However, he said in an interview Thursday morning that "the soldiers no longer need to ask rabbis concerning expulsions because they know what to do." Others have stated that soldiers must not refuse orders but should simply tell their commanding officers they do not feel well and cannot function properly. 

As in the past, the Yesha rabbis’ advice was met with demands that they be arrested for incitement. MK Ofer Pines-Paz said, “The rabbis' call to refuse military orders undermines Israeli democracy. This is dangerous incitement that is liable to break up the IDF.”