Rabbi E. Melamed
Rabbi E. Melamed Israel news photo

Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, Dean of Yeshivat Har Bracha, is considering resigning his position – in order to make sure his students don’t have to sit in jail.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak removed Yeshivat Har Bracha from the Hesder arrangement [a five-year program, consisting of one-third combat army service and two-thirds Torah study] last month, after Rabbi Melamed did not condemn soldiers’ in-army protests against outpost demolitions. Barak also did not like the rabbi’s previous calls for refusal of orders to demolish Jewish homes and evict Jewish residents, nor the fact that he did not show up for a “hearing” when summoned at short notice. In addition, some senior commanders were miffed at Rabbi Melamed’s criticism of “senior army brass” as being “career-oriented.”

Rabbi Melamed said it was not Barak’s place to “summon” him for a “hearing” as if he were a criminal, simply because he expressed the view of Torah as he understands it.

The students of Har Bracha, in Shavei Shomron, were given 60 days, about a month ago, to either leave the yeshiva and join another one (Hesder or other), or enlist for a full three-year service in the army.

Rabbi Melamed is apparently worried that his students will not choose either option, but will rather remain in the yeshiva – and thus face army prison time. Dozens of the students have stated that this is their intention, and are willing to “pay the price” – namely, prison.

It has been reported in the name of a “defense source” that if Rabbi Melamed resigns, Hesder status is likely to be restored to the yeshiva.

Court Suit Withdrawn

Over 60 students of the yeshiva sued Barak in the Supreme Court last month, claiming that his “personal dispute” with Rabbi Melamed should not be allowed to force them to change their yeshiva or army preferences. However, the students withdrew their suit on Wednesday, after Justices Beinish, Rubenstein and Fogelman made it clear that they had no chance of winning.

“This does not look like a personal matter,” Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch said. “The rabbi said things, and it’s serious.”

Judge Rubenstein said that Rabbi Melamed’s refusal to show up for the hearing was detrimental to his case: “It was strange that he did not show up, and therefore Barak used his own judgment on the matter, because there are no regulations covering such a case.”

Rabbi Chanan Porat, a long-time settlement leader and a former Knesset Member, had criticism both of Barak and of Rabbi Melamed’s rabbinical colleagues. “The attempt to punish students in this way is shameful,” he said. “If a university rector would say something objectionable, would they close the university?!”

Regarding the Hesder rabbis, Rabbi Porat said, “I’m disappointed that they did not present a firm, clear and united front. I told them that they should not let the Defense Minister confuse them, that they should be tough and should serve as a mouth for the soldiers who don’t want to be ordered to demolish Jewish homes. They finally did so, but even then it was very weak-kneed; they said, ‘perhaps other soldiers could be taken for these missions.’ This is not the way. They have to say clear things: The IDF should not take part in civilian missions, and getting the IDF involved in these things just destroys the army, as we saw in Gush Katif. There is nothing more legitimate than to say this clearly, and I call upon all Hesder students to sign a petition to forbid involving the IDF in politics.”

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