Har Bracha gives up on hesder status

Yeshiva accepts Barak's demand, refers students to Elon Moreh.

Har Bracha Yeshiva, which was removed from the roster of hesder yeshivas last December, recommended to its students on Sunday that they continue their studies and military service as part of Elon Moreh Yeshiva, thus enabling them to remain part of the arrangement under which men serve 16 months in the army and spend close to four years studying in yeshiva.
The move seems to indicate the end of the deadlock between the yeshiva and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who decided to cancel the arrangement with Har Bracha after the head of the yeshiva, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, refused to retract statements he had made supporting insubordination in the army under certain circumstances, even after Barak’s move effectively placed the yeshiva’s students under the threat of imprisonment if they did not serve a full three years of military service or find another hesder yeshiva.
“The army adamantly refused to let us be part of the hesder yeshiva since we insist on our stance, which is da’at Torah and therefore cannot change,” Rabbi Gur Galon, who teaches the fourth and fifth-year students at Har Bracha told The Jerusalem Post on Monday, referring to a halachic edict from some 15 years ago prohibiting the evacuation of Jewish settlements.
“In order to keep the students out of this clash and prevent them from entering dilemmas neither they nor their parents chose, we decided to refer our students to another hesder yeshiva that is close both physically and ideologically, the yeshiva in Elon Moreh,” he added.
Last week, Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, who heads the Elon Moreh yeshiva, reiterated his support for refusing military orders under certain circumstances.
“Insubordination is a lethal and destructive act, but there are instances when we use chemotherapy and radiation to stop a cancerous growth,” Levanon said at a Bar-Ilan University conference on insubordination.
Galon further noted that Levanon was not the only rosh yeshiva who supported insubordination in certain situations. When asked by the Post why, if so, only Har Bracha was removed from the hesder roster, Galon speculated that the security establishment sought a scapegoat to send a warning to all the yeshivas and rabbis. And the reason Har Bracha was chosen, Galon said, was probably due to a widely circulated article Melamed wrote in Besheva, in which he criticized the security establishment and its head – who didn’t appreciate the critique.
Of the approximately 150 students at Har Bracha in various stages of their five-year program, however, a handful of young men have refused to accept the Defense Ministry’s edict to either transfer to a different yeshiva or commit to a full three years of military service. A few of those currently in active duty have already been tried and sentenced to military prison or have been grounded to their bases, and those currently at the yeshiva have been summoned to the IDF’s induction center.
While noting that the Har Bracha yeshiva didn’t encourage those students to make that choice, Galon praise them for their move, as “their motivation is ideological and in accordance with the da’at Torah.” Asked by the Post how the row with Barak affected Har Bracha’s standing among young religious men looking for a yeshiva to join, Galon said enrollment to the institute has doubled, compared to the same time last year.
The finalization of Har Bracha’s exclusion from the hesder program, however, doesn’t reflect a change in the yeshiva’s attitude toward the state or the IDF, Galon stressed.
“Military service is a mitzva from the Torah. We believe in the sanctity of the State, and will recite Hallel on the upcoming Independence Day. That won’t change, no matter what,” Galon said. “But the same principles and religious beliefs apply to the prohibition to evacuate settlements.”