'Hebron extremists out of our hands'

Kiryat Arba Yeshiva head: These are good kids, but potentially dangerous because they don't listen to us.

masked settlers riot hebron 248.88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski  [file])
masked settlers riot hebron 248.88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Rabbis said on Sunday that they had no control over the fringe element among settler youth that threw rocks at IDF soldiers, defaced Arab property and used violence against police who evacuated Hebron's Beit Hashalom. Rabbi Avinoam Horowitz, head of the Yeshiva High School in Kiryat Arba (YATKA), said in a telephone interview that there was a small group of young men and women who were not in formal education frameworks and who did not accept any authority, including rabbinic. "These young people are very idealistic and have a lot of good qualities," said Horowitz. "But they are also potentially very dangerous because they do not listen to the rabbis. And this small group attracted a lot of attention when they came to Beit Hashalom." However, he said, "it is important to point out that the vast majority of the youth behaved very well." Even rabbis considered more radical, such as Rabbi Uzi Sharbaf, the son-in-law of Hebron's Rabbi Moshe Levinger, and Kiryat Arba-Hebron Chief Rabbi Dov Lior have failed to win the confidence of these fringe elements. "Rabbi Sharbaf tried a few times to prevent these people from throwing rocks. But as soon as he went inside they started up again," Horowitz said, adding that he and all the other rabbis who had allowed students to go to the disputed house in Hebron had done so in the hope that a critical mass of people would dissuade the government from attempting to evacuate the building. "But we gave clear directions to our students not to use violence. I even told boys that if they had any doubts whether or not they could control themselves, they should stay home," he said. "Those who went to Beit Hashalom were given specific orders to passively resist attempts to evacuate them by simply lying down and not moving." Horowitz spoke with The Jerusalem Post on his way back from the Jerusalem District Court, where a rabbi who teaches at YATKA, Rabbi Gabi Bibi, was arrested and later released without being charged, following his alleged involvement in a shooting incident in Hebron. Bibi is the commander of a rapid-response security team based in Kiryat Arba that came to the aid of Ze'ev Braude, who had come to Hebron to locate his 16-year-old son and was attacked by local Arabs, said Horowitz. Rabbi Moshe Hagar-Lau, head of the Religious Pre-Military Academy in Yatir, in the Southern Hebron mountains, said that no pre-military academy students had come to Hebron. "All heads of pre-military academies told their students not to go to Beit Hashalom," said Hagar-Lau, a colonel and battalion commander in the reserves. "The fringe elements in Hebron taught the leadership a lesson. They are going to have to figure out how to deal with those young people." Hagar-Lau said the behavior of the fringe elements not only endangered the legitimacy of the settlement movement, but was also a security liability. "My son, an IDF officer, was forced to deal with these youths instead of arresting Palestinian terrorists," he said. According to Rabbi Ezriel Ariel of Ateret, a settlement in the Samarian hills, the loss of rabbinic leadership over a growing fringe group is a direct result of the trauma of the disengagement. "The aftershock is much more severe than we could ever have foreseen," said Ariel, who is editor-in-chief of Tzohar, an influential journal for religious Zionist rabbis. "The perception among some young people is that the moderate leadership failed miserably in Gush Katif. These youths are convinced that the only way to achieve anything in the state is via violence," he went on. "Look at the crime lords, look at the Arabs in the North, the Beduin in the Negev and the extremist haredim who do not refrain from using violence to get what they want." Ariel said that even more traumatic for settlement youth had been the failure of the state to rehabilitate the expelled Gush Katif settlers. "Not only did people feel guilty for hugging soldiers who came to expel them from their homes instead of fighting them, they were also treated horribly by the state afterwards. The only way people could explain the behavior of the government was that they were evil and had something against the settlers," he said. "Why else are government clerks dragging their feet for so long?" One rabbi, who preferred to remain anonymous out of concern that his relations with more extremist elements might be hurt, said that in the aftermath of Hebron, he was optimistic. "Daniella Weiss and her extremist methods turned out to be a complete failure," said the rabbi. "The evacuation of Beit Hashalom was quicker than even one house in Gush Katif, which proves the futility of violence. Hopefully now people will be more willing to listen to a more moderate voice."