Hebron rabbis work to maintain order

Hebron's rabbis worked behind the scenes as a moderating force to maintain order among settler youth during violent confrontations with security forces. But these same rabbis refrained from coming out openly against violence in order not to lose legitimacy in the eyes of the settler movement. "We received clear directions from rabbis here not to hurt soldiers or police during demonstrations," said Tzvi, a 15-year-old from Ma'ale Adumim, one of hundreds of religious Zionist youth who descended on Hebron's Mitzpe Shalhevet to prevent the eviction of seven Jewish families. "Almost every hour there was a briefing," said Tiferet, a 13-year-old from Kfar Saba. "We were constantly told, no cursing and no hitting. They let us understand that throwing eggs and tomatoes is OK. But no rocks." Batsheva, 14, said, "We were told that we are messengers of the entire Jewish people, that this struggle is not just for the Hebron community but for our nation." Rabbi Dov Lior, Chief Rabbi of Hebron and neighboring Kiryat Arba, was in contact via SMS with youth leaders and answered questions as they arose. However, Lior refrained from issuing any public announcements. "Rabbi Lior and others do not want to weaken the struggle for Greater Israel," said Rabbi Yishai Babad, personal secretary of Lior. "They [the rabbis] believe the present crisis has do be allowed to play itself out. There is a lot of anger. The rabbis are not trying to calm them. "Rabbi Lior always says that any attempts to expel Jews from the Land of Israel is tantamount to decreeing war on God and his Messiah." Rabbi Uzi Sharbas, head of Kolel Rinat Shalhevet, which is also slated for eviction, briefed the demonstrators frequently over the last four days. "He told us that every attempt was made to clarify to the youth the limits of the struggle," said one worried parent who arrived in Hebron to collect his son. Sharbas refused to talk to The Jerusalem Post. Rabbis who served as moderating forces during disengagement from Gaza and Northern Samaria, such as Rabbi Shlomo Aviner of Beit El and Rabbi Rafi Peretz of the Atzmona military academy, were harshly criticized by right-wing religious Zionists for weakening the struggle against disengagement. Aviner, Peretz and other moderate rabbis called on evacuated settlers to hug police and soldiers in a show of solidarity, while crying over the expulsion of Jews from the Land of Israel. Rabbis such as Lior and Sharbas realize they will be accused of defeating the settler cause if they come out openly against violence in the struggle for Greater Israel. However, they are also aware of the dangers of anarchy if the struggle spirals out of control. Noam Arnon, a spokesman for the Jewish community in Hebron, asked whether Hebron's rabbis, such as Rabbi Moshe Levinger, should serve as a moderating force replied, "Do you mean a force that helps carry out the expulsion of Jews? Rabbis here will not help carry out the expulsion. They will try to make it as difficult as possible." Miriam Gravotsky, a young mother who lives in Mitzpe Shalhevet admits that the fight for Hebron will be more aggressive than the one for Gaza. "There will not be hugging and kissing this time," she said. But Gravotsky is quick to add that violence is not an option. "Physical attacks on soldiers and police is not only wrong, it is counterproductive," she said.