Religous-Zionist rabbis mixed over IDF base raid

“Harming army is sin and so is hatred," yeshiva head says; MK Katz: Shin Bet planted activists to disgrace settler movement.

National Union MK Yaakov Katz 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
National Union MK Yaakov Katz 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Religious Zionist leaders’ reactions to the Tuesday morning attack on an IDF base in the West Bank were mixed, with some rabbis expressing vehement criticism, and others, while decrying the attack, nevertheless blaming the government for the growing number of such incidents.
“We’re in shock,” said Rabbi Ya’acov Medan, co-head of Yeshivat Har Etzion in the settlement of Alon Shvut, one of the largest religious Zionist yeshivot in the country.
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“The people who did this crossed not only red lines, but black lines as well. They need to be brought to justice and strictly dealt with,” he told The Jerusalem Post.
Asked whether religious Zionist rabbis were doing enough to counter the growing vigilante phenomenon among extremist elements in the settlement movement, Medan stated that numerous rabbis were not only denouncing these actions but working to thwart them by coordinating with the army and police.
He added, however, that the people involved in such attacks did not have a recognized leader.
“Since they do not follow mainstream rabbis, the ability of leading religious Zionist figures to influence them is limited,” he said.
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, head of the Ateret Yerushalayim Yeshiva in Jerusalem’s Old City, also criticized the attack, focusing on the methods as opposed to the motivations.
“You can’t do a mitzva by doing a sin,” he told the Post, quoting a well-known dictum in Jewish law. “Harming the army is a sin, and so is hatred. The IDF doesn’t set government policy.
They are simply carrying out the directives they receive from the government, and the army is doing the best it can under the circumstances.”
He noted that “army serves the people” in a democracy, and that people wouldn’t want it to be the other way around.
Aviner added that in his opinion, the number of extremist settler activists was “extremely small,” and that such people’s actions should not lead to generalizations of the wider settlement community.
“There are always radicals, on the Right or the Left, haredim [ultra-Orthodox], anarchists and others. There are always such people who want to destroy the old world and build a new one in its place, and the media always likes to talk about these outliers,” he said, adding that he did not feel there was any great process of radicalization among the settler community.
Samaria Chief Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, who is also the rabbi of the Elon Moreh settlement, criticized the attack but blamed government policy regarding the unauthorized settlement outposts for the recent violence.
“The government’s behavior is violence cloaked in democracy, and those responsible for it are the defense minister and the prime minister,” he told the Kipah website. “They are hardening their positions, and as a result causing extremists to do things which shouldn’t be done.”
He declared that there was no justification for evacuating outposts when compromise was possible, adding that “the government is just fanning the flames.”
“The current policies are simply the caprice of the defense minister over some buildings which aren’t bothering anyone.
It’s not Arab land, it’s not anything,” he insisted.
Levanon did strongly denounce the attack itself, however, saying that “it damages the people of Israel, the settlement movement and the army.”
The Tzohar rabbinical group expressed “deep pain” over the incident.
“Just days before Hanukka, it’s sad to see that there are people in our midst who don’t know the importance and significance of a strong and united Jewish army,” the organization stated.
Earlier, Tzohar director Rabbi David Stav met with the commander of the Ephraim Brigade, Ran Cahana, and expressed his “embarrassment at the actions of these outlaws.”