Cracks emerge in hesder unity as rabbis eye faithful

Cracks emerge in hesder

har bracha support 248.88 (photo credit: )
har bracha support 248.88
(photo credit: )
Just one day after 57 hesder yeshiva heads met and issued a statement of unity there were already signs of dissent Monday. Several heads of hesder yeshivas told The Jerusalem Post they were dissatisfied with the overly conciliatory message that went out from Sunday's meeting at Or Etzion Yeshiva. "The type of declaration that was voiced yesterday will not convince [Defense Minister Ehud] Barak to reverse his decision," said Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, head of the Elon Moreh Hesder Yeshiva. "We need a much more aggressive statement," he said. Levanon, who boycotted the meeting at Or Etzion because "it's outcome was predictable," said that in coming days "other options will be proposed" by a group of rabbis who had hoped for a stronger message. One of these options is to petition the Supreme Court to test whether Barak had the legal authority to "collectively punish" students of the Har Bracha Yeshiva for statements by its head, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed. As a result of Barak's decision, some 150 students at Har Bracha who are presently in various stages of a five-year program combining military service with Torah studies will be forced to either transfer to another hesder yeshiva or serve a full three years of active duty in the IDF, as opposed to just 18 months. However, it is still unclear whether Melamed, who has criticized the Supreme Court for its secular ideology, will cooperate with such a move. Another hesder head, who was unhappy with the outcome of the meeting but who preferred to remain anonymous, said he was concerned that rabbis would lose their influence with religious youth. "Young people tend to be more extreme in their opinions," said the rabbi, whose yeshiva is located in Samaria. "When they see rabbis kowtowing to Barak they'll lose all respect for us," he said. "Without rabbinical guidance these young people are liable to stray off the track and abandon religion." The anonymous rabbi said the message that should have been voiced was unequivocal support for Melamed. "Youths want to hear a clear message. But a majority of rabbis chose a more moderate direction. It was as if they were more concerned with the impression they were making on Barak than with the impression they were making on their students. "And even though there was a group of us - about a third - that disagreed, we preferred to maintain unity. But over time it will be difficult to hold that unity together." At Sunday's meeting at Or Etzion it was unanimously decided that the rabbis would instruct their students to refrain from demonstrations in the IDF. The rabbis also expressed their appreciation toward and solidarity with the IDF. There was no decision on the subject of refusing orders, as the rabbis were divided on the issue. The rabbis called on Barak to reverse his order to exclude Har Bracha from the hesder program. There were additional signs of dissent. Rabbi Yinon Ilani, head of a small hesder yeshiva in Arad called Chen Bamidbar, announced that he would split from the hesder yeshivas in protest against the overly moderate, conciliatory message made by the Union of Hesder Yeshivas. "We should have told Barak that the IDF is subordinate to the rabbis," said Ilani, in an interview on Radio Kol Chai, a haredi radio station. However, Ilani's yeshiva is so small that his defection from hesder will not have a major impact. In another incident, soldiers from reserve battalion 8207, who where stationed during the past month at the Avnei Hefetz settlement in northern Samaria, left a handmade banner thanking the residents for their hospitality and showing solidarity with Melamed by declaring, "We're all Har Bracha." Meanwhile Rabbi Haim Druckman, who represents the more moderate majority of hesder yeshiva heads, told the Post that attempts were still being made to maintain dialogue with the Defense Ministry. "We are are trying to create movement and dialogue with the Defense Ministry, and we need to give the process some time to come to fruition," said Druckman. Melamed refused to be interviewed. However, he answered questions on the "Yeshiva" Internet forum. Asked by one young forum participant if he backtracked by signing the joint statement put out by the Union of Hesder Yeshivas, Melamed answered that he had not. "But there is one thing that I did change. I recommended not demonstrating within the framework of the IDF. And I now join the opinion of most, if not all rabbis, who expressed 'opposition to demonstrations in the IDF.'" "And that's because as a member of the Union of Hesder Yeshivas, the majority opinion should be taken into consideration as long as the change does not violate any fundamental principle. "But of course regarding Shabbat desecration or evacuating Jews from their homes or similar things, my opinion remains unchanged. And the rest of the rabbis agree to this as well."