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Settlement rabbis have been warning in recent days against giving a literal interpretation to a speech about civil war by the late Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Hacohen Kook, who is considered the spiritual father of the settlement movement.

The issue was sparked by a flyer that has been making the rounds of the settlements, which quotes a speech given by Kook 31 years ago. The speech was largely kept hidden for many years, and Kook's students even omitted it from a supposedly comprehensive collection of his sayings, though it was later included in another collection.

Settlement rabbis fear that some extremists are interpreting Kook's words as permission to fight soldiers and policemen who carry out the disengagement or to commit suicide to protest the evacuation.

"The obligation of `you shall inherit the land and settle it' is that the land should be in our hands, and we should not abandon it to any other nation," Kook said. "This is a positive commandment from the Torah, clear and absolute, applying to all of Israel: that for this land, throughout its borders, we are obligated to give up our lives. If the moment of compulsion comes, whether from non-Jews or, God forbid, from Jews - because of political errors and errors of judgment - we are all obligated to die rather than violate [this commandment].

"Judea and Samaria, the Golan Heights - these will not go without war," he continued. "Someone asked me if I want to start a civil war. I won't get into terminology, and I won't put a name to this matter, but this is a fact: It will not go, it will not pass without a war. Over our bodies and our limbs. All of us. The non-Jews will not bring it about, nor will our own political messes. Under no circumstances in the world."

This speech also recently appeared on Arutz Sheva's Internet news site, whose rabbinic supervisor is Rabbi Zalman Melamed of Beit El. Melamed fiercely opposes the disengagement and has urged soldiers to disobey orders to evacuate settlements. However, in his own commentary on the site, Melamed stressed: "One should not take any active measures. We will not hurt a soldier or a policeman. But we will not participate in this act, which in our opinion is a sin of the most serious sort."

Melamed's son, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed of Har Bracha, told Haaretz that the issue of Kook's speech also arose before the evacuation of Yamit, in Sinai. "But I don't know a single rabbi who believes that Rabbi Kook's intent was that we should wage a civil war over the land of Israel, or commit suicide," he stressed, noting that the speech must be interpreted in light of Kook's overall approach rather than viewed in isolation.

Another rabbi, who asked to remain anonymous, said that there are people "on the fringes" who take Kook's words literally, but insisted that this is an incorrect interpretation. "The commandment is to avoid committing the sin [of evacuation]. But what are you to do when extreme acts such as civil war or suicide will not prevent the public in general or the state from committing this sin? Therefore, this statement must be taken as a statement of principle, not a practical prescription," he said.

Another leading student of Kook's, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner of Beit El, recently published a strict prohibition against violence during the evacuation, in a circular distributed throughout the settlements. "This army is our army, and this police force is our police force," he wrote. "They are Jews, not Britons. They are our brothers, even if they are coming to carry out an order that should not have been given ... Don't lift a hand, don't insult, don't hate. Even in difficult situations, we will adhere to love for all Israel... We will not even shove a soldier. We will embrace him."

Moshe Feiglin, head of the Jewish Leadership faction of Likud that has spearheaded opposition to disengagement within that party, also recently published a circular urging people not to bring weapons to demonstrations, evacuations, or anyplace that they might come into contact with police and soldiers. That, he said, is the best way to ensure that nobody opens fire for any reason.