Hesder yeshivas: learning and army service
Hesder yeshivas: learning and army service Israel news photo: file

A group of leading rabbis has scheduled a meeting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak Tuesday, following the attack by Maj-Gen Avi Mizrachi on the Har Bracha Yeshiva and his demand that the IDF cease enlisting its students.

The rabbis intend to tell Barak that “under no circumstances” will they allow “damage to the academic and Torah freedom of the hesder yeshivas.”

In using the term “academic freedom,” the rabbis are co-opting a term which until now has usually been used by the Left to justify seditious statements by academicians.

Two of the rabbis gave an advance sampling of their opinions on the matter in interviews to Besheva magazine. Rabbi Nachum Eliezer Rabinovich of the Birkat Moshe hesder yeshiva at Maaleh Adumim told Besheva magazine that some yeshiva heads are motivated by fear and concern, which cause them to avoid making elementary demands of the IDF with regard to the limits of its role.

'Only dictators do this'

" It is unacceptable that a soldier be placed before the dilemma, whether he is more loyal to his country or to his rabbis."

Regarding the threats to close down hesder yeshivas whose heads educate their students to disobey orders to expel Jews from their homes, Rabinovich said: “Does one close down a yeshiva because rabbis educate their students? This [teaching] does not damage the unity of the army, rather the army will be united if it is not given orders that should not be given to it. Only in authoritarian dictatorships is it acceptable that the dictator uses the army according to his whims. But in a democratic country, the army is sacredly devoted to one thing – defending the country. This is how it should be, and that is what is written in the IDF's ethical code.”

Rabbi Amnon Sugarman, Head of the Hispin Hesder Yeshiva, said that he does not understand the “onslaught” against Rabbis Eliezer Melamed and Elyakim Levanon, who heads the Elon Moreh yeshiva, since they were not aware of their students intentions to raise protest signs against evictions of Jews.

'They should receive a citation of merit'

Regarding the threats to close down Har Bracha and Elon Moreh yeshivas, Rabbi Sugarman said that “the fact that they have different views does not mean that they are unfit to educate. They did no wrong to anyone. If one compared what they said to the incitement by lecturers in academia against the State of Israel and the IDF, the rabbis should have received a citation of merit. After all, all of the students' zeal to serve in the IDF comes from the rabbis. At Ben Gurion or Haifa universities they incite against the State but no one says anything because it is allowed as part of academic freedom. The yeshiva rabbis are educators on a level that is equivalent to the academy. Why do the rabbis have less rights than lecturers?”

Rabbi Sugarman said that other rabbis must support Rabbis Melamed and Levanon even if they disagree with the “tone or style” of their messages. “Just as the Council for Higher Learning does not threaten any university, so the Union [of Hesder Yeshivas] will not allow hesder yeshivas to be damaged.”

Regarding the question of disobedience in case of orders to expel Jews, he said: "The army must create order in this matter and cease involving itself in things which it is not intended to do,” he said  “There are enough policemen. Take them to do policing work. It is unacceptable that a soldier be placed before the dilemma, whether he is more loyal to his country or to his rabbis. This activity is all political, and therefore the army should not be a part of it.”

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