Yeshiva students debate Melamed-Barak dispute

Yeshiva students debate

Contrary interpretations of commandments to conquer and safeguard the Land of Israel are leading rabbis who head hesder seminaries to take up opposing stances on the issue of clearing settler outposts. Most national religious rabbis oppose the evacuation of settlements and believe that the Jewish people should resettle the whole of Judea and Samaria, but disagreements exist over the extent to which the commandment should be fulfilled. Hesder army recruits participate in a five-year program which involves a year and four months of military service, with the remainder devoted to intensive religious studies. A group of students - all of whom have completed their military service - from the Petah Tikva Orot Shaul Hesder Yeshiva spoke to The Jerusalem Post in the aftermath of a divisive showdown between the Har Bracha seminary in the West Bank, headed by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Barak cut ties with Har Bracha following calls by Melamed for soldiers to disobey orders to evacuate settler outposts. But the yeshiva students from Petah Tikva stressed that Rabbi Melamed's calls were by no means indicative of the consensus view. Their own yeshiva, they said, disputed Melamed's conclusion that Jewish law called for soldiers to refuse orders to clear the outposts. "If I received an order to evacuate an outpost, I would have to carry it out," said Aviad Shamila, 25, who served in the Armored Corps Infantry Brigade. "There is a dispute over the commandment to conquer the land. The Rambam did not include the commandment in his list of general commandments, and the question that is asked is, why not," he added. The Ramban, by contrast, did emphasize the commandment, and it is the Ramban's interpretation which is being championed by Rabbi Melamed, the students explained. "This is one of many Halachic disputes," added Yair Chaag, 21, who served in the Armored Corps. "Does safety of human lives take priority over this commandment? Whose safety are we looking at, that of the individual or that of the nation? These are a few of the questions that are at the base of the differing interpretations," said Mor Chalfon, 21. Chalfon, who served in the who served in the Givati Brigade, said that in general, there was no clash between Jewish law and the IDF, adding that the current controversy was an exception to the rule. "At the end of the day, the army gets along with halacha well. And commanders recognize that Hesder soldiers are the most spirited among the ranks," he added. The students generally agreed that army orders must be carried out so long as they are legal in order to prevent anarchy. "We are dealing with a halachic division. Here in this yeshiva, we are going along with the stance of our own rabbis, who do not believe that orders to clear outposts should be refused," Chalfon said. The students said that while they expect the controversy to flare up again, they felt the media was over-hyping the division, and did not believe a tear between the national religious camp and the military was looming. "This is an army guided by Jewish law," said Shamila. "Every rabbi has his own nuance, and this is what is at the root of the Har Bracha issue," he added.