12th graders threaten to refuse pullout

Yeshiva students write letter to Olmert, urging him to retract convergence plan.

By MATTHEW WAGNER
May 21, 2006 19:29
2 minute read.
refusenik avi bieber 298.88

refusenik bieber 298.88. (photo credit: Associated Press [file])

 
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Hundreds of religious high-school students, enjoying the backing of mainstream rabbis and educators, notified Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Sunday that they would choose conscientious objection over helping to implement his West Bank convergence plan. In a letter faxed to Olmert the students wrote: "Upon assuming the office of prime minister and on the eve of your departure to the US, we feel the need to let you know the extent of the turmoil caused by your convergence plan. "Next year we will enlist in the IDF. As did our parents, we plan to serve our country with all our might and with all our soul. We have no doubt that the IDF is the country's protector. "Therefore we implore you not to task the IDF with implementing the convergence plan, which we believe will endanger the state and cause a rift. If, nevertheless, the IDF is chosen to implement it, we will be unable to participate in any way. We will not uproot men, women and children. Nor will we aid in any way. "Please do not tempt us. Retract the idea of uprooting settlements." Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, head of the hesder yeshiva in Petah Tikva, called the letter "severe" and "dangerous." "For those who believe settlements are immoral and an obstacle to peace, this letter is a justification to abandon them and the people who live in them," said Cherlow is considered relatively left wing in religious Zionist circles. Although Cherlow agreed that the IDF should not be the one to evacuate settlements, he added that parts of the letter that called on Olmert to backtrack were examples of illegitimate, politically-motivated objection. However, Rabbi Azriel Ariel, editor-in-chief of the rabbinic monthly Tzohar, said the letter was an example of conscientious objection, which was perfectly legitimate. "Blind allegiance to any and all army orders even when they contradict your personal moral values is called fascism," said Ariel, who is the rabbi of Ateret, a settlement in Samaria. Eitan Mor-Yosef, secretary general of the Bnei Akiva youth movement, agreed with Ariel. "We want to serve in an army that protects citizens and fights enemies, not in one that expels Jews from their homes." Students at Or Menachem yeshiva, had no part in the intiative, he said he was supportive. "I don't know if I agree with every single word," said Horovitz. "But the general message is right on the mark." The letter was faxed to Olmert's office. Attached to the letter was a request to respond. "So far we haven't gotten a response from the prime minister," said one of the students who helped write the letter. In addition to Or Menachem, other high schools that have received the letter and signed include Haspin in the Golan Heights, Mercaz Harav's high school, and schools in Dimona, Kfar Haroeh and Petah Tikva. "It is taking us a long time to distribute the letter," said one of the students. "But we already have at least 150 signatures with many more expected. "And after we finish with the religious high schools our next stop will be secular ones."

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