| Rabbis: Soldiers must stay
in areas. Rabin asks A-G to probe if decree is seditious.
Date: July 13, 1995
Publication: Jerusalem Post
Author: HERB KEINON, Batsheva Tsur and Evelyn Gordon
Jerusalem Post PRIME Minister Yitzhak Rabin last night
called on the attorney-general to determine whether a group
of influential rabbis breached the law by declaring that
it is halachically forbidden for soldiers to evacuate IDF
bases in the territories.
"There never was such a thing in Israel, and it is
inconceivable that such a thing could happen in Israel,"
Rabin said, adding that rabbis had no right to tell soldiers
to disobey orders.
However, Rabin did not go along with calls by Communications
Minister Shulamit Aloni and Environment Minister Yossi Sarid
to disband Hesder units, which combine army service with
yeshiva study. These units have served the state faithfully
in the past, he said, and it is too soon to jump to conclusions
about their loyalty.
In a halachic ruling that created an uproar, rabbis representing
the International Rabbinic Forum for Israel ruled that "there
is a Torah prohibition against uprooting IDF bases and transferring
the sites to Gentiles, since this contravenes a positive
[Torah] commandment and also endangers life and the existence
of the state."
Among those who signed the ruling are former chief rabbi
Avraham Shapira, Rabbi Moshe Zvi Neria, initiator of the
Bnei Akiva yeshiva network; Haim Druckman, head of the Or
Etzion Hesder yeshiva in Mercaz Shapira; Nahum Rabinovitch,
head of the Hesder yeshiva in Ma'aleh Adumim; Eliezer Waldman,
head of the Hesder yeshiva in Kiryat Arba; Shlomo Aviner,
head of Jerusalem's Ateret Cohanim yeshiva, which is also
a Hesder institution; Zalman Melamed, head of Yeshivat Beit
El; Dov Lior, Kiryat Arba's chief rabbi; and Ya'acov Ariel,
the chief rabbi of Ramat Gan.
The ruling was reached after three hours of discussion
in Shapira' s Jerusalem home. Last week the rabbis failed
to come to a decision on the matter, and postponed a ruling
to allow for consultations with other rabbis and IDF officers.
The ruling was signed by the heads of four of the country's
20 Hesder yeshivot; none of the signatories is Sephardi.
President Ezer Weizman yesterday turned back a delegation
from the settlers' council when its members arrived at Beit
Hanassi accompanied by Druckman.
"The president regards this ruling in an extremely
serious light," his spokesman said. "It undermines
the basic principles on which the IDF is based and could
invalidate the democratic foundation of the state."
The spokesman said the meeting with MK Hanan Porat and
three other council members had been arranged earlier. But
when Weizman noticed Druckman in the group, he told the
members they could not enter his office.
The president apparently learned of Druckman's intention
to join the delegation from an Israel Radio news broadcast,
and was infuriated.
Rabbi Yehuda Amital, head of the Har Etzion Hesder yeshiva
in Gush Etzion, came out squarely against the ruling, and
said that the group does not speak in the name of the entire
"This ruling is not acceptable to me, or to a number
of other Hesder yeshiva heads," Amital said. "There
is no halachic base to say that a soldier is forbidden to
carry out an order like this." Amital quoted a ruling
by former chief rabbi Isser Yehuda Unterman that said it
would be permitted to relinquish Jewish holy sites if this
would save lives.
The signatories of yesterday's ruling believe that evacuating
the IDF bases would threaten the existence of the state
and cause loss of life, and would therefore contravene the
Biblical precept: "Thou shalt not stand idly by the
blood of thy neighbor."
"It is clear and simple," the rabbis wrote, "that
it is forbidden for every Jew to take part in an action
to assist the evacuation of a settlement, army base or IDF
installation." The rabbis quoted Maimonides, the 12th
century halachic authority, who wrote that even the command
of a king should be disregarded if he asks one to violate
Rabin, in an interview with Israel Radio, said that such
a halachic decision is "grave," "unprecedented"
"I am prepared to say that this is a very grave thing,
that a group of rabbis - not all the rabbis in Israel -
can make a decision like this," Rabin said. "It
is unthinkable that we will turn Israel into a banana republic.
This should be rejected by the entire Knesset, not just
At the same time, Rabin praised the Hesder yeshiva soldiers,
saying they have "proven themselves as good, disciplined
soldiers, and I believe and hope this will continue."
Nahum Rabinovitch, one of the signatories, said he was
not surprised by the harsh reaction the ruling elicited.
"A very strong reaction was to be expected,"
he said. "If a strong reaction wakes people up so they
see how deep a cleavage the government is creating, and
how dangerous the cleavage is, then it may serve a purpose
and do some good."
Rabinovitch rejected charges that a call to disobey orders
strikes at the the pillars of society, saying that the government
is responsible for the damage because it is changing the
map of the country without sufficient public support. He
said the government should have a referendum or call new
elections before making such far-reaching decisions.
Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau responded to the decision
by saying " we all understand that not obeying an order
is very grave, and that it can lead to anarchy. I hope that
the government takes into consideration the sentiments of
a large part of the population who are not comfortable with
the [government's] decisions, even if the decisions were
made in a democratic fashion."
Lau called for a "slowdown of the pace of the process
in order to allow for additional soul-searching, and to
prepare the hearts of our neighbors for the idea of peaceful
coexistence. Peace is not only made between leaders, but
also between peoples," he said.
HERB KEINON, Batsheva Tsur and Evelyn Gordon, Rabbis: Soldiers
must stay in areas. Rabin asks A-G to probe if decree is
seditious.. , Jerusalem Post, 07-13-1995.