Monday, December 14, 2009

Synthesizing Israel: Judaism, Democracy & the IDF

Israel's politicians repeat the following mantra over and over again till they're blue in the face: Israel is a Democracy and a Jewish State. Yet they also categorically state, Israel's democracy is our dearest and most important aspect of the country. Rarely will you hear a politician say that Israel's Jewish character is our dearest and most important.

This post comes on the coat tails of Defense Minister Ehud Barak's decision to disconnect the IDF from the Har Bracha Hesder Yeshiva. Hesder yeshivot combine the Jewish characteristic of the importance of studying Torah and Jewish Law, and the importance of being part of Israel's daily challenge of physical survival. The Rosh Yeshiva of the Har Bracha Yeshiva, R' Eliezer Melamed was at the focus of the storm, since his outright declaration that "Torah law outranks IDF commands" and that a soldier may not participate in the uprooting of Jews from their communities in Israel (alluding he destruction of settlement outposts, and more).

In response, Barak demanded a "hearing" with R' Melamed, who refused to show up, claiming that he would attend a meeting, but not a "hearing" under pressure. When R' Melamed refused to show up, the Defense Ministry ordered an immediate cease to funding to the Har Bracha Hesder Yeshiva, and that the Yeshiva no longer is considered within the "Hesder" framework.

Over 50% of this mornings radio news programming from 8 - 10 AM was about this issue -- including interviews with the brother of R' Eliezer Melamed, the Rosh Yeshiva of the affected

Sitting next to me on my ride to work this morning was a co-worker, and I asked his opinion about the Har Bracha Hesder Yeshiva issue. My friend is a reservist combat officer, who happens to also be a religious settler. He's far less dramatic than JoeSettler's comments...and he said very clearly that the vast majority of the IDF's religious soldiers will continue to serve. We got into an interesting discussion about the Har Bracha yeshiva, and the "Chardal" movement -- Har Bracha is not representative of the Hesder yeshiva movement, and is on the far right. Is Har Bracha's disconnection from the IDF really what R' Melamed wanted? Instead of outright saying, "Soldiers need to disobey orders about removing settlements", he should have said, "keep the IDF out of political issues."

I wanted to add 3 thoughts:

1. Ehud Barak does everything due to politics. He will get plenty of brownie points within the Labor party for "sticking it" to the settlers and Hesder yeshivot. As with Ariel Sharon, he would rather forcefully drag the IDF into politics to prove he's a leader, rather than finding a solution which would be better for Israel's unity and future.

2. The same way the IDF has disconnected itself from Har Bracha's yeshiva, I would demand that the IDF stops funding for all atuda students/soldiers and career soldiers studying for degrees at colleges and universities that spout anti-IDF dogma; including Hebrew University, Tel-Aviv University, Haifa University, and Ben Gurion University. While Har Bracha encourages (overall), IDF combat service and only talks about disobeying orders when it comes to "uprooting settlements", the the anti-IDF rhetoric at the Universities discourages any participation in the IDF whatsoever.

3. This is a thorny issue that should have been dealt with with much more sensitivity and creativity, from R' Melamed to Ehud Barak.

Oh, here's an interesting update. R' Ovadiya Yosef has announced that anyone who uses Israel's secular courts instead of going to religious ones, can not be counted for a minyan. (Posted in this past Shabbat's parsha flier, מצב הרוח כ"ד כסליו תש"ע)

Of course, R' Ovadya's Shas yeshivot will continue to get money from the government, while Har Bracha will not.

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realRightWinger said...

I disagree on some points.

1. Rav Melamed was correct in refusing to be rebuked by Mr Barak. Who the hell does Barak think he is - He is a minority minister who was placed in power by Bibi for political reasons. That does not give him a mandate to summons, trial and provide sentencing over another citizen. That is for the State attorney to do.

2. As stated in your post - Rav Melamed should have acted more diplomatically. But, hey its a free country.

3. I can see the outcome of this is that all Hesder Yeshivot will go on 'strike' - and not serve - that will severly undermine the army.

4. I think the solution is for:
a) Bibbi to rebuke Barak for being strong handed, over reacting and being meglomaniac in his behaviour - but I doubt we will see this is public.
b) Rav Melamed to issue a diplomatic apology to the State of Israel and not Barak - whereby he stands his grounds of saying - keep the IDF out of political issues.
c) Har Bracha to be re-instated by Bibbi.
d) Rescind the freeze - since its not having any effect.

Just my 2 cents.

Lion of Zion said...


i havent been following this story too closely and i'm not familiar with the nature of the hesder framework, but if it is considered techinically part of the army framework in any way then the yeshivah should have been removed from hesder
on the other hand, you are correct with your point #2 and barak should apply the principle of no insubordination to university funded students as well.

yes, israel is a (imperfect) democracy, but in what democratic country (even the more democratic ones) does democracy extend to the military. civil rights are curtailed, personal rights are curtailed, judicial rights are curtailed, etc.

any hesder rav who preaches insubordaintion should withdraw himself from the hesder framework and exert his moral influence from the sidelines.

chag urim same'ach

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

LoZ: IDF soldiers study at universities around Israel, and are routinely encouraged to totally refuse IDF service. These studies are within the IDF framework, the students are considered soldiers during their studies, and the Universities are paid by the IDF for these studies.

While I can agree with you that Har Bracha should perhaps not publicly announce that their students should not refuse orders -- why do the Universities get off?

I'll go a step further -- had the IDF given an order for a Bedouin IDF solider to evict Bedouins from their homes, the left would have been up in arms over the stupidity of the army to put Bedouin soldiers in such a compromising situation.

HAGTBG said...

The issue isn't democracy but an effective command and control. If the government of Israel were Labor, duly appointed, it would have the right to see its (core) policy implemented.

The hesder yeshivot receive their funding for services provided to the IDF. The yeshiva was no longer willing to provide those services (as its blatantly clear that teaching refusal of lawful orders is not providing services).

I am not pro Labor or its policies, I am not pro politicization of any countries army. But if you think the army should tolerate a part of the army (i.e. a hesder yeshiva) calling for insubordination, I can not understand what's in the water by you.

Anyway, Barak didn't 'kill' the yeshiva; he merely cut off one revenue stream. It is now up to the market to decide the yeshiva's future.

HAGTBG said...

I should add that the fact that Barak is a 'minority' minister is irrelevant. As is the case that the largest political party in israel s Kadima. What is relevant is that he is a member of the Israeli government implementing its policy, which he has a right to take part in creating and implementing.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

HAGTBG: What do you think of the point that Israeli Universities that receive funding from the IDF, and routinely call on IDF soldiers to refuse to server?

Additionally, the issue is far more than funding -- any student at that yeshiva can no longer be considered within the IDF "hesder" framework, and will need to either switch to a recognized Hesder yeshiva, or declare he will only learn in yeshiva from now on (torato umanuto).

Lion of Zion said...


"why do the Universities get off?"

because the universities are independent institutions and the military is in a sense contracting with the the universities to educate some of its soldiers. the universities are *not* an extension of the military. (and perhaps israel needs a military college)

the hesder yeshivot on the other hand exist within the military framework and are subjects to its rules and regulations (which includes no insubordination).

maybe this is my galut american mentality shining through. but i don't see any violation of democratic principle here. any soldier (hesder or otherwise) can invoke a personal status of conscientious objector. but there is no room in any military-affialited framework for encouragement of this behavior.

Lion of Zion said...

the distinction between universities and hesder yeshivot may be frustrating, but it exists

Anonymous said...

"This post comes on the coat tails of Defense Minister Ehud Barak's decision to disconnect the IDF from the Har Bracha Hesder Yeshiva. Hesder yeshivot combine the Jewish characteristic of the importance of studying Torah and Jewish Law, and the importance of being part of Israel's daily challenge of physical survival. The Rosh Yeshiva of the Har Bracha Yeshiva, R' Eliezer Melamed was at the focus of the storm, since his outright declaration that "Torah law outranks IDF commands" and that a soldier may not participate in the uprooting of Jews from their communities in Israel (alluding he destruction of settlement outposts, and more)."

That all sounds so cut and dry.......but it really isn't.

The reason that it isn't cut and dry, is because of the lack of understanding most Jews have regarding the Torah.

I am Israel, so you can't possibly be.

Does that sound ridiculous to you?

Of course it does, because you think that you are Israel, and refuse to admit that you could be in error about this matter.

When I read the Torah, I see myself being discussed everywhere.

It's about me, not you.

Well, ok. I see you described here and there. But the description that I see of you indicates that you are bound for destruction, because of your loftiness.

You see, I take a totally objective look at the Torah, without considering myself as the center of emphasis. Yet, I find that it's still about me, and what I will do.

I find you and a warning to you about not being able to do anything about protecting our planet's people during the time of destruction.

You think that God is going to protect you, during that time, simply becaue you have followed all of the Torah to the letter (except for the parts that don't suit you, like waiting on God to establish Zion, and Israel).

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

LoZ: the hesder yeshivot on the other hand exist within the military framework and are subjects to its rules and regulations (which includes no insubordination).

LoZ: Lets say that religious soldiers are ordered to destroy an outpost on shabbat. While one could argue that destroying an outpost is a direct order and there's no subordination allowed, how do you reconcile it with shmirat shabbat, when its obvious that destroying the outpost is a political action of the government and NOT that of pikuach nefesh?

When one learns hilchot shabbat in a yeshivat hesder -- what do you expect a hesder solider to do in such a case?

R' Goren, who was the IDF Chief Rabbi as well as Israel's Ashkenazi chief Rabbi, said that soldiers should not obey orders that contradict the Torah.

My main point of contention is that since its such a fragile balance between serving in the IDF, obeying orders AND being a religious Jew -- the powers that be need to address this issue carefully, and not simply in black and white.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Anonymous 3:23 PM - I have no clue what you're talking about.

Are you neturay karta or a fundamentalist christian?

jonathan becker said...

some really interesting comments and good points, i'm glad i read them before trying to stick in my two cents, which will have to wait now while the big boys are playing. this is a very, very tough issue. a line in your post, jameel, made me wonder if you ever plan to expand on it:

"Har Bracha is not representative of the Hesder yeshiva movement, and is on the far right. Is Har Bracha's disconnection from the IDF really what R' Melamed wanted?"

if this is the case, perhaps r. melamed is doing a mitzvah by using the financial swan dive of his yeshiva to bring this matter to the forefront of the national discussion NOW before it does more damage at an even more vulnerable time than we're currently in, chas v'shalom.

jonathan becker said...

oh sorry, i see now your question was rhetorical. but imagine for a moment it's not. if r. melamed wanted to disengage his yeshiva from the hesder framework for political reasons ANYWAY, why not use the situation to make a statement and pop this dangerous boil before it explodes on all of us?

Anonymous said...

Jameel @ The Muqata said...
Anonymous 3:23 PM - I have no clue what you're talking about.

Your point in this blog is that the IDF has no business removing illegal squatter (which you refer to as "settlers"), based on your misunderstanding of the Torah.

Thanks for making my point.

And no, I'm not a "neturay karta," nor a "fundamentalist christian." In fact, I'm not aligned with any religious organization; I'm against them all.

You guys were given fair warning, to leave Jerusalem. In fact, just last week I posted a link to a video that was made just for you.

Feel free to continue to ignore the parts of the Torah that don't serve your ego. And enjoy 2010, because it will be the last year that you will inhabit Jerusalem.

Please don't take that as a threat from me, because I am merely the bearer of this bad news; not the one who is coming to destroy you.

I'm sure you still don't know what I'm talking about, because you have ignored the Torah, in favor of religious deception.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Anonymous 3:23. As I wrote - you're either Neturay Karta or fundamentalist Christian. I was right -- please proselytize elsewhere.

Jonathan: This can play out in different ways, and hearing R' Melamed's brother on the radio this morning, he sounded extremely pained by the whole issue, and wished it would not have come to this. I don't believe R' Melamed wanted this to be the outcome...and I don't know who is going to back down first.

The problem first and foremost lies in the Israeli Government -- starting with Ariel Sharon, who used to the IDF to carry out the Disengagement. Ehud Olmert continued by using the IDF at Amona. Till we have a Prime Minister with enough sechel to realize that using the IDF as a political force is a BAD thing, we're going to stay in bad shape.

Will Bibi reign in Barak? Its lose/lose because if he's reigned in, then Barak's standing goes UP. If he doesn't rein in Barak, then this will deter others from joining Hesder...or the IDF for that matter.

Lastly, re: Har Bracha. The hesder yeshivot are from from monolithic in their thought, and I can assure you many think that R' Melamed was unwise to publicize this issue, and that he should have gone to meet Barak. Har Brachaa is is from the Chardal mindset -- Chareidi Leumi, yet Chareidi thinking in many ways.

R' Aviner is an example of a Chardalish Rabbi -- While R' Aviner is super-mamlachti about the army, he is very Chareidi in other ways -- such as his viewpoint on separate public transportation buses for men and women (not just separate seating on buses, SEPARATE buses!!!)

jonathan becker said...

thanks. like i said, tough issue, i appreciate your thoughts and analysis, and those of your blogging cohorts and (some of) your readers.

it's rough out there
high water everywhere

josh said...

A lot of ignorance here about the real facts of the whole story.
and FWIW, Barak is the agressor in this case. He's supposed to be the cool headed leader.

HAGTBG said...


Others here set forth distinctions between the hesder yeshivot (army entities) and the universities (non-army entities that get some army funding).

Concerning the plight of the students, the articles made clear that they had time to transfer to other hesder yeshivot.

What it comes down to is that Rabbi Melamed did not want to be relegated to being a state functionary even while receiving state funds for precisely that. (You see similar issues by conversion where rabbis paid to be functionaries of the Chief Rabbinate refuse to recognize conversions of the CR.) DM Barak gets to show who is boss, R' Melamed his freedom from control. So personally, both should be better off if they really man what they say. The students have time to not be caught up in this if they choose. They are inconvenienced but not harmed beyond that unless they want to make a point. Barak also gets to set this precedent before there are serious withdrawals (this precedent will certainly be raised then, which was the reason I assume the settlers might stand behind the rabbi even though he's clearly wrong).

RZ said...

An open letter by a student of Yeshivat Hesder Petach Tikva:

Anonymous said...

It doesn't surprise me that you ignore what I said, about not being a part of any religion. I'm not trying to convert you to anything. My only goal is to help you, and everyone else that is caught up in this struggle for survival (even though your struggle is self induced).

Just because I use the Tanakh, it doesn't mean that I'm a Christian or a Jew. It just means that I know the value of prophecy. And being from outside any religion allows me to take a totally objective look at what they say.

It would serve you well to do the same.

Jeremy said...

This does not have to be a religious issue. As all idf soldiers are taught on day one, a פקודה בלתי חוקית בעליל not only does not have to be carried out, but is not permitted to be carried out.

While there are certainly many who would disagree with the characterization of these orders as such, I don't think anyone could disagree with the legitimacy of someone defining them as such.

NormanF said...

Its ironic Israel's government is systematically acting to uproot national religious Zionism - the only Zionism left in Israel. Who will defend the country if its gone?

jonathan becker said...

anonymous, jews know the value of prophesy and have their own understanding of the teensy-weensy little details in daniel that your video link expounded upon. now go on, fuck off. see you on the other side of 2010. and if not, who cares?

Anonymous said...

jonathan becker......

Nah, you won't see me on the other side of 2010. And you're right about no one really caring. It's not people like you that anyone cares about. It's those you have led down the wrong path, that I'm concerned about.

Enjoy what's left of your life. Feel free to proudly claim your inheritance.

Here's another link that you won't be interested in, since you are under the impression that I've discovered something in one part of the prophecies.

That book explains everything you don't want your children to know.

jonathan becker said...

" Feel free to proudly claim your inheritance."

why, thank you. i will. feel free to proudly proclaim your stupidity.

jonathan becker said...

@ ignormous:you poor, pathetic dickhead. you think i haven't read your soources? i know ALL about it. you should get busy reading mine. even the stupidest rabbis of the last 2000 years make you look like what you are- a confused ignoramous.

jonathan becker said...

sorry, jameel, i usually save my patented invective for dovbear's cadre of well-meaning simpletons. i apologize for dirtying your otherwise fine upstanding blog. it's only that you didn't seem to be dealing with this idiot yourself (beyond your initial advice to "go proselytize elsewhere", which i guess he/she didn't get). and i wasn't doing anythig else too important- always a bad thing. somebody had to do it, in other words.

Jameel said...

jonathan: ts'ok - wasnt around to kick him off. I'll delete his sillyness tomorrow.

Jeremy: All you have to do is claim that kicking Jews out of their homes is a pekuda bilti alil, and you'll be thrown in jail for disobeying an order.

The "pekuda bilti alil" isn't usable by religious or right wing soldiers.


jonathan becker said...

sorry again, not my first time being drawn in by sockpuppetry, i should know better.

jonathan becker said...

but why delete his comments? my favorite defence of free speech is " how else will we know who the assholes are?" :)

Anonymous said...

See the largest Lego Chanukiah in Jerusalem, and perhaps Israel.

Lion of Zion said...


"Lets say that religious soldiers are ordered to destroy an outpost on shabbat . . ."

that's a good question on the merit of chilul shabbat in general and nothing do with uprooting settlements. something to think about.

"when its obvious that destroying the outpost is a political action of the government"

no a less political action than establishing a settlement in the first place.

Lion of Zion said...

I guess I don't see settlements through a purely halakhic prism, and this might be at the root of our disagreement

kol tuv

Anonymous said...

Actually Chilul Shabbat is against army regulations - and would be a doubly illegal order.

Lion of Zion said...


but the question remains what if the army were to ammend its regulations in this matter.

(besides, who defines what is chilul shabbat? tzomet or the edah?)

NonymousG said...

I asked Rabbi Hillel about this, and he said soldiers are serving the state and as such do not have the right to refuse it's orders.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

LoZ: There's a law on the books in Israel about giving land to the enemy.

There's also a law on the books about keeping shabbat in the army.

In reality -- both are overlooked all the time.

tafka pp said...

Late to the party- but you are completely misleading in your comparison of Atuda'im and Hesder.

In over a decade of living here, I have known a lot of students, of all political leanings, who have studied with army funding at Universities, and NOT ONE has ever left/come out against the IDF, even if they've attending lectures given by post-Zionists who routinely denigrate the army. They have all completed their service and continued with their Miluim.

You cannot begin to compare course lecturers and Roshei Yeshiva. There is no such equivalent. Lecturers, by nature, give over opinions as part of academic discourse. While they may well be open about their politics/feelings about the State, they don't routinely mobilise their students to political action based on shared directives (eg Torah) to go against their army orders (eg). (And not to say that all Yeshivas function like that, although my Midrasha certainly did.)

Lecturers don't order students to attend demonstrations either, or vote a certain way- students are free to make those decisions themselves, and have the choice of whose influence to function under. There is no premise of "Oseh Lecha Rav": Ergo, an inspirational lecturer will never wield the level of influence as an inspirational Rav, and as such, a genuine comparison can't be drawn, tempting as it may be.

Your earlier commenter is correct- R. Melamed needs to find himself an appropriate niche outside of Hesder. And we Israelis need to find ourselves some strong, genuine leaders, and fast.

rz said...

Rav Aaron Lichtenstein, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Hesder Har Etzion, supports insubordination:

"Commentator: If a Torah-true Israeli soldier has a conflict between what his government tells him and what his Rav tells him, such as an order to participate in the removal of Jews from an area of Judea and Samaria - what should he do?

RAL: I think it depends on what kinds of issues come up. If the issue is one of Halakhic principle, where Morei Halakha consensually assume that a certain course of action is in clear violation of clear Halakhic norms, then we know. We don't heed a Melekh or Malkhut which issues decrees against Halakha.

Lion of Zion said...

"There's also a law on the books about keeping shabbat in the army."

ilona@israel said...

the anti-IDF rhetoric at the Universities has to be stopped as its bad for the country

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