'Halacha might not oppose convergence'

Incoming IDF Chief Rabbi: Government holds responsibility for evacuation.

religious soldiers 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
religious soldiers 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Incoming OC Chaplaincy Corps Rabbi Avichai Ronsky said in an interview this week that evacuating Jewish settlements as part of a disengagement or convergence plan was not necessarily opposed to halacha. Although Ronsky has refused media requests for an interview since being named to the IDF post, he agreed to be interviewed by a group of yeshiva students for Olam Katan, a weekly religious pamphlet distributed to synagogues nationwide. Olam Katan asked Ronsky if it was true that "the central halachic opinion" among rabbis prohibited evacuating settlements. Ronsky answered, "another central halachic opinion also holds that the responsibility for any evacuation is placed on the shoulders of the government, not the IDF. The argument is complicated and will not be solved today or tomorrow." Ronsky refused to explain his answer to The Jerusalem Post. However, he seemed to be referring to his position on insubordination during disengagement, which he opposed. Rabbis who opposed disobeying IDF evacuation orders argued that, while the government was wrong in ordering them, the IDF had to carry them out. Ronsky added in this week's interview that he did not know what he would do if faced with an actual evacuation, but that he nevertheless decided to accept the IDF appointment. "I believe [the chaplain] has an important role and can have a major influence on the IDF," he said. "In contrast, I am faced with the possibility that, God forbid, I will be forced to deal with a difficult situation [involving evacuating Jewish settlements]. I decided that my decision should not be influenced by the possibility of a future evacuation that is only being discussed in theoretical terms." This was the first interview with Ronsky, head of the Itamar yeshiva near Nablus, since he was chosen to replace OC Chaplaincy Corps Brig.-Gen. Yisrael Weiss. Weiss was sharply criticized by settlers and religious Zionist leaders and rabbis for acquiescing to IDF participation in the evacuation of Jewish settlements in Gaza and Northern Samaria. Ronsky said that he had received the blessings of rabbis from diverse backgrounds. Ronsky, commenting on dissent within the religious Zionist camp, said, "I have no intention of hiding my opinions just because someone thinks otherwise. It would be a terrible thing if because of my opinions people alienated themselves from me. In my eyes it is a terrible tragedy that a rabbi needs bodyguards because of his opinions." Ronsky also heads an IDF committee that oversees the integration of male and female soldiers. Commenting on coed IDF service, he said that "IDF service is obviously not as 'sterile' as the yeshiva. But I feel many people either do not know the facts or purposely distort them. In most combat units there is no problem with coed service. Also, every soldier is asked before he enlists if he is willing to serve in a coed unit."