Rabbis, Melamed oppose army protest

Hesder yeshiva heads to

Eliezer Melamed 248.88 (photo credit: )
Eliezer Melamed 248.88
(photo credit: )
Defense Minister Ehud Barak is not expected to reverse his order to sever the ties between the IDF and Yeshivat Har Bracha, regardless of decisions that will be made on Sunday at an emergency gathering of more than 50 hesder yeshiva heads at Merkaz Shapira, defense officials said on Saturday. Ahead of the meeting, Mercaz Harav yeshiva head Rabbi Ya'acov Shapira sent the rabbis a special letter, in which he warned against restricting spiritual leaders' freedom of expression. "Lest men of Torah be restricted from speaking their mind," the rabbi, whose yeshiva is not part of the hesder arrangement, wrote. "This would belittle the Torah, which must by essence be free." The 50 rabbis will meet at the Or Etzion Yeshiva - headed by Rabbi Haim Druckman - to discuss Barak's decision to expel Har Bracha from the hesder arrangement with the IDF, under which men serve 16 months in the army and spend close to four years studying in yeshiva. The decision was made after the head of the yeshiva, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, voiced support for insubordination in the army. "We have made our decision and do not plan on changing it," explained one official from Barak's office. A source close to the Union of Hesder Yeshivot said on Saturday evening that the rabbis would discuss ways to persuade Barak to change his decision and allow Har Bracha to retain its hesder status. "There are still attempts by elements within the political, military and legal establishments to come up with a compromise," the source said. One option under consideration is for either the union or Har Bracha to petition the High Court of Justice against Barak's decision. Some of the more radical rabbis are pushing the Union of Hesder Yeshivot to issue an ultimatum to Barak that they will indefinitely postpone the enlistment of their students into the military unless he reverses his decision regarding Har Bracha. The five rabbis who make up the Governing Council of the Union of Hesder Yeshivot belong to the more moderate camp in religious Zionism. Druckman, who heads the union, was one of the leading rabbis who openly and strongly opposed any forms of insubordination during the Gaza disengagement in 2005. During the current tensions between Barak and Melamed, Druckman - along with Rabbi Shlomo Rosenfeld of the Shadmot Mehola Yeshiva in the Jordan Valley, Rabbi Yehoshua Weitzman of the Ma'alot Yeshiva in the Upper Galilee, Rabbi Shmuel Haber of Karnei Shomron and Rabbi Eliya Blumentzweig of the Yeruham Yeshiva - drafted a letter that clearly denounced political demonstrations in the IDF. The rabbis were referring to three cases in which soldiers from the Kfir Brigade, which is responsible for patrolling Judea and Samaria, flew banners in public places declaring they would not take part in the evacuation of settlements. Jerusalem Post staff contributed to the report.