OC manpower head demands action from hesder rabbis
OC manpower head demands
By REBECCA ANNA STOIL, MATTHEW WAGNER
OC Manpower Division Maj.-Gen. Avi Zamir told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Wednesday that he had issued an ultimatum to heads of pre-military yeshivas to take action and not just speak against the phenomenon of insubordination among their pupils.
Zamir said that in his previous meeting with yeshiva heads following the recent incidents of subordination in the Kfir Brigade, he had "presented the incident in its full severity, as the IDF sees it. I asked, is it right to enlist graduates of hesder yeshivas who are educated in such a way? I demanded actions, and not just a condemnation."
Zamir emphasized that the IDF would not examine all yeshivas as a single unit.
"We will decide according to each yeshiva's position on these issues. There shouldn't be a rift in the model of the 'people's military,'" he said.
He added that the IDF and the defense establishment had presented state prosecutors with complaints on the incidents.
Zamir is slated to meet the rabbis again on Thursday.
The MKs held an emotional debate on the subject, with an angry exchange breaking out between National Union MKs Arye Eldad and Michael Ben-Ari, and Labor rebel MKs Eitan Cabel and Yuli Tamir. Cabel said that if the phenomenon continued, the IDF would have to reconsider its relations with the yeshivas, and Ben-Ari accused him of "turning the hearing into an ambush against the hesder yeshivas."
At a later point in the hearing, Tamir and Ben-Ari exchanged accusations that each was a "fascist" - Ben-Ari for supporting the settlements, and Tamir for supporting the expulsion of Jews from their homes.
MK Ophir Paz-Pines, also a Labor rebel, blasted the phenomenon of insubordination as "a cancer that will spread if it is not uprooted."
Rabbi David Stav, spokesman for the Union of Hesder Yeshivot, who was also present at the hearing, said in response to Zamir's comments in the Knesset, that while the union opposed insubordination, it also supported the right of individual yeshiva heads to intellectual freedom.
"The vast majority of yeshiva heads oppose insubordination," said Stav. "But we are not going to interfere with rabbis' freedom. Besides, even yeshiva heads who support refusing orders to evacuate Jewish settlements did not like seeing those signs waved by hesder soldiers." Stav said that more right-wing rabbis who openly supported insubordination had been gaining popularity among religious Zionist youth due to a growing feeling of frustration.
"Many young people feel like suckers. They give more than any other sector of the population, but they get back the least," he asserted. "I'm not saying young men are volunteering any less for combat units. But I do think there is a growing feeling among them of 'I'm nobody's sucker.'"
Zamir is slated to meet with six heads of hesder yeshivot on Thursday: Rabbi Haim Druckman of Or Etzion, Rabbi Shmuel Haber of Karnei Shomron, Rabbi Shlomo Rosenfeld of Shadmot Mehola, Rabbi Yehoshua Weitzman of Ma'alot, and Rabbi Eliyahu Blumenzwieg of Yeruham.
In his comments, the OC manpower singled out Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, head of the Har Bracha Hesder Yeshiva near Nablus. "I was exposed to Rabbi Melamed's book, where I found a number of quotes like 'The refusers on the Right are righteous.' I asked the union's leaders to clarify what Rabbi Melamed's stances are, which values he is teaching his people, and if this is the appropriate educational level," Zamir said.
A number of those involved in the recent sign-raising incidents are allegedly students in the Har Bracha yeshiva.
Although another yeshiva head, Rabbi Elyakim Levanon of Elon Moreh, has also come out publicly against using the IDF to evacuate Jewish settlements, Melamed has published his opinions in a book called Revivim, a compilation of his weekly column in the settlement weekly B'sheva.
Melamed has written that it is "forbidden" for any person, whether soldier or officer, to participate in "the expelling of Jews from their homes and handing over any portion of the Land of Israel to enemies." He has also written that many senior IDF officers are tainted by political motives.
Former chief of staff Dan Halutz had recommended expelling Melamed's and Levanon's yeshivot from the hesder program after the Gaza disengagement.
Immanuel Shilo, editor-in-chief of B'sheva, backed Melamed.
"The heads of yeshivot have the right and the obligation to interpret the Torah in the way they understand it," said Shilo. "Perhaps the IDF thinks that if it puts pressure on the Union of Hesder Yeshivot, they will force Rabbi Melamed and others to retract. But it won't happen."
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