Dozens of rabbis sign open letter opposing refusal
Dozens of rabbis, some of them well-known, have signed an open letter in the last few days in which they express their opposition to soldiers' refusing orders to evacuate settlements.
Dozens of rabbis, some of them well-known, have signed an open letter in the last few days in which they express their opposition to soldiers' refusing orders to evacuate settlements. The letter, expected to be published at the beginning of next week, is the first crack in the solid wall of rabbinic support for such refusal.
Not all of the rabbis who signed the letter support Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Gaza disengagement plan but they are united in vehemently opposing refusal to obey a military command. They note that refusal will affect the sense of cohesiveness of the Israel Defense Forces.
One of the signatories to the new petition is Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, rabbi of the town of Efrat in Gush Etzion. Riskin yesterday published a statement saying that while he is strongly opposed to disengagement and supports the proposal for a referendum, he considers refusal a danger to the future of the state. He distributed his statement among the Ohr Torah Stone institutions which he heads.
"Refusal to obey an order given by the government is tantamount to a giant step toward civil war," Riskin notes. He also states that he differs with the rabbinical ruling that the importance of the mitzva (precept) of the Land of Israel is equal to the importance of keeping kosher or observing Shabbat. "There is no absolute prohibition against giving up parts of the Land of Israel, if the need for this arises, to strengthen other parts of the country. Yonatan Ben-Zakai gave up Jerusalem and requested that the sages of Yavneh be brought to him. King Solomon ordered that 20 towns be transfered to King Hiram of Tyre. There are precedents. And despite the terrible pain, refusal is many times worse since it could lead us downhill to the very end of the existence of the State of Israel as an independent and sovereign state," he writes.
Rabbi Yehuda Amital, the former Meimad movement leader, has signed the petition letter alongside his colleague at the head of the Har Etzion yeshiva in Alon Shvut, Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein. Amital believes that refusal puts the future of the Zionist state in jeopardy, and that it is not legitimate to employ halakha (Jewish law) as a tool for preventing disengagement.
"Halakha states that one must think of the good of the country and that is defined by different people in different ways, so that the argument is political, and halakha has no status here," he says.
Rabbi Yoel Bin Nun, another signatory, is a vehement opponent of refusal even though he has been attacking the disengagement plan for months. During the intermediate days of Sukkot, he published a long article in the religious daily Hatzofeh in which he explained that "a public transgression, like a public mitzva, is committed by the entire public via its elected representatives, in legitimate ways and means according to the law and according to accepted public norms.... The private observation of and opposition to evacuation of people from their homes has to be discussed in a democratic dialogue of civil rights and human rights vis-a-vis government and parliamentary decisions... Even undemocratic decisions by recognized leaders of the people of Israel must be observed if they do not oblige the individual to commit a crime."
Among the dangers he envisions in refusal is a situation where the army cannot carry out the evacuation and the settlers who insist on staying will be left to their own resources; another is the difficulties the IDF will face in future in guarding areas that are disputed, because of refusal by left-wing soldiers, "something which [former chief] Rabbi Shapiro is not aware of at all, to my regret."
Several other prominent rabbis are expected to sign the open letter.