'Hollow government must be replaced'

Mercaz Harav head says Israel is in need of a change of leadership, spiritual reawakening.

mercaz harav funeral 224 (photo credit: )
mercaz harav funeral 224
(photo credit: )
Rabbi Ya'acov Shapira, head of the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, made a decidedly militant speech on Sunday evening calling to replace the government and to continue building in all parts of the Land of Israel. "The blood of our brothers shouts to us from this land," Shapira said at a press conference in the library where many of the yeshiva students were wounded or killed on Thursday. The pockmarked floors evidenced where terrorist Ala Abu Dhaim "confirmed his kills" by shooting already-wounded victims in the head, and the bullet holes in the walls and bookshelves were clearly visible. "Here in this holy place, on the Land of Israel, our students' blood was spilled. May God take vengeance," Shapira quoted from The Kuzari by Rabbi Yehuda Halevi, who wrote that the first murder in human history, Cain's killing of Abel, was over the Land of Israel. Shapira - the son of Rabbi Avraham Shapira, the previous yeshiva head and former chief rabbi of Israel, who passed away in September - pointed out that his yeshiva served as a training base for rabbis and students who went out to settle all parts of the Land of Israel. The yeshiva head then related a story that has become legend among students at Mercaz Harav. Weeks before the Six-Day War, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, the spiritual father of the settlement movement, prophesied the conquest of Judea and Samaria. "Yes, where is our Hebron? Have we forgotten it?" Kook asked of hundreds of students who had gathered at Mercaz Harav on the eve of Independence Day, 1967. "And where is our Shechem [Nablus]? And our Jericho? Will we forget them? And the far side of the Jordan, it is ours, every clod of soil, every region and bit of earth belonging to the Lord's land. Is it in our hands to give up even one millimeter?" Shapira said Kook's call to settle the Land echoed to this day. Shapira was accompanied by Rabbi Haim Steiner, a senior educator at the yeshiva, and Rabbi Yerachmiel Weiss, head of Mercaz Harav's high school yeshiva. Behind the three men was a huge copy of a declaration written by Kook detailing the various prohibitions against ceding any part of the Land of Israel to non-Jews. Yehoshua Mor-Yosef, who served as official spokesman for the yeshiva, said that Kook's declaration was "the basis of all that we believe in." Shapira also called to replace the country's political leadership with one inspired by the Torah and Jewish thought, which he called "our people's road map." "When there is no faith in the justness of our way, there is no spiritual strength, and our physical strength also is weakened," he said. "The entire nation is hoping for a change in perspectives, thought and approaches and systems, and this is the time. I believe a majority of the people in Israel are united in these aspirations." Earlier Sunday, dozens of students and some educators verbally assaulted Education Minister Yuli Tamir as she left Mercaz Harav after visiting the high school. The yeshiva men shouted "murderer" and "traitor" and pushed police and security guards who surrounded Tamir. Tamir was quoted by Ynet as saying that the incident reminded her of the days leading up to the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. Weiss called the men's behavior "stupid," but added that Tamir's left-wing political views made it difficult for the students to accommodate her. In contrast, a visit by Public Security Minister Avi Dichter went smoothly. Mor-Yosef said that though both ministers were members of the same government, Dichter's right-wing views and rich security establishment past - he was head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) from 2000-2005 - made him more acceptable than Tamir, a member of Peace Now. Yeshiva heads turned down a request by Olmert on Sunday to make a condolence visit, Israel Radio reported. Until Tamir's departure, the atmosphere was generally quiet, with students talking quietly in the corridors and the courtyard of the yeshiva. Many revisited the terrorist attack in small groups, reconstructing precisely what had happened. The rabbis of the yeshiva ordered all students, except for a designated few, to refrain from talking to the press. Natanel Burman - the first to see Dhaim, who entered the yeshiva carrying a large carton containing a Kalashnikov rifle - recounted how he had thought the terrorist was Jewish because he had "a light complexion." Burman recalled how he and some other students had even joked, "Who ordered a TV?"