Leading rabbi: Yeshivas need rapid response teams

Hager-Lau says first 10 minutes of attack critical; another top rabbi says employing Arabs forbidden.

rabbi Kanievsky 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
rabbi Kanievsky 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In the wake of the terrorist shooting at Jerusalem's Mercaz Harav Yeshiva on March 6, a leading rabbi and high-ranking IDF officer called this week on all post-high school educational institutions to train rapid response teams capable of defending against future attacks. Rabbi Col. (res.) Moshe Hager-Lau, chairman of the Premilitary Religious Academies and Assistant Divisional Commander of Reserve Forces in Judea and Samaria, sent a letter to a list of Torah institutions requesting that they beef up their security. "The attack on Mercaz Harav was proof that terrorists are targeting the 'atomic core' of religious Zionism," Hager-Lau wrote. "I detect a definite trend," added the rabbi, who goes everywhere with an M-16 rifle slung over his shoulder. "The latest attack was on Mercaz Harav. But there was an attack just two months ago at the Mekor Haim Yeshiva [in Gush Etzion], and before that there were attacks on Atzmona [in Gush Katif] and Otniel [in the South Hebron Hills]." Hager-Lau, who heads the Premilitary Academy in Yatir, south of Hebron, said that in counterterrorism, the first 10 minutes - the minimum amount of time it takes for the IDF to respond - were critical. "In the Mercaz Harav attack, the whole thing was over after about 10 minutes. The hope is to reduce the time it takes to respond by training an armed group of men who are present at all times on the yeshiva premises." Part of the proposed security policy would include a limitation on employing Arabs, since both Palestinians and Israeli Arabs could potentially be terrorists or terrorist collaborators. According to the family of Ala Abu Dhaim, the terrorist who killed eight Mercaz Harav students and wounded nine, the yeshiva had employed Abu Dhaim as a driver. However, yeshiva head Rabbi Ya'acov Shapira denied that Abu Dhaim was a yeshiva employee. Hager-Lau said that while he would prefer a Jewish-only entry policy to religious institutions, banning Arab labor entirely was unfeasible. "If I have to choose between the ideal of Jewish labor only and continuing to build at a quick pace, I'd prefer to keep the building going," he said. He said that in an attempt to reduce the chances of a worker having ties to a terrorist group, entry to the yeshiva for Palestinians would be limited to people aged 40 or over who were well-known. A leading haredi spiritual leader and halachic authority ruled this week that due to the potential danger to Jewish life, it was forbidden to hire Arab workers, according to Yom Chadash, a new ultra-orthodox daily. Rabbi Haim Kanyevsky told yeshiva administrators, "We are war with them [Arabs]," therefore "according to Jewish law it is prohibited to hire them," according to Yom Chadash. Yeshiva administrators, after the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva attack, asked Kanyevsky whether they should fire their Arab employees. Kanyevsky, who expressed surprise that Arab workers were preferred to Jews, asked, "Are there no Jews who can work and earn a living from the same work?" He said that under normal circumstances it was always preferable to hire Jews rather than Arabs, unless there was a significant difference in cost. But in the present situation, due to the danger to Jewish life, there was a prohibition against hiring Arabs, he said. Kanyevsky's ruling is likely to result in a mass firing of Arab employees at hundreds of haredi yeshivot across the country. Haim Kanyevsky is the son of Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanyevsky ("the Steipler"), the son-in-law of Rabbi Yosef Sholom Eliashiv, a leading rabbinical authority in Jerusalem, and a nephew of Rabbi Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz, a leading Torah scholar known as the "Chazon Ish." Haim Kanyevsky is known to refrain from engaging in politics. Thousands of people visit him rabbi every year, seeking Torah-oriented advice on various topics. In the West Bank, every male Israeli over the age of 18 is obligated by law to acquiesce to a demand by their home settlement to perform guard duty. Known as "Bar Shmira," the legal obligation permits young men to carry arms before they serve in the army. The IDF provides M-16 rifles and ammunition to authorized rapid response teams in the West Bank under an understanding that maintaining a local defensive force is the best way to ensure security in Jewish settlements. Inside the Green Line, young men who had completed army service would participate in the rapid response team training, said Hager-Lau. In addition to teams armed with IDF-supplied M-16s, there would also be teams armed with handguns. Participants would be trained to track, locate and neutralize terrorist infiltrators operating in urban settings where the majority of the population is friendly. Hager-Lau asked Mishmeret Yesha, an organization that has trained more than 100 rapid response teams throughout Judea and Samaria, to help train the yeshiva students. Israel Danziger, head of operations at Mishmeret Yesha, said he had been asked by Hager-Lau to put together a general plan for educational institutions that would improve their preparedness to deal with terrorist infiltrations. Danziger said the plan included an early-warning system; drills that would teach every settlement resident where to go in case of an attack; coordinating and practicing communications between emergency organizations and residents; and conducting periodic mock attacks. However, one of Mishmeret Yesha's central security demands is a no-Arab policy. "We don't want to have anything to do with any organization that employs Arabs," said Danziger. "There is no sense in training a rapid response team in a settlement or an institution where you have a bunch of Arabs walking around gathering information."