Yeshiva to Lose 20 Percent of Budget After Expulsion From Hesder Draft Program

The Har Bracha yeshiva will lose the NIS 700,000 it receives every year from the Defense Ministry because Defense Minister Ehud Barak has revoked its status as a hesder yeshiva.

Barak ordered the Israel Defense Forces last night to oust the yeshiva from the hesder arrangement, which combines Torah study with army service. This is the first time a yeshiva has ever had its hesder status revoked.

The NIS 700,000 the yeshiva will lose accounts for 20 percent of its budget.

Barak's decision stemmed from the fact that the yeshiva's head, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, had repeatedly urged his students to disobey orders to evacuate settlements. The defense minister had sought to meet with Melamed before making a final decision, but Melamed refused to come to his Tel Aviv office.

The ouster will not take effect immediately, in order to give students who wish to remain in the hesder time to transfer to another yeshiva. But sources in the hesder world predicted that very few students would do so - and that additional students would join the yeshiva as a show of support for Melamed.

Last week, Rabbi Haim Druckman, who heads the Or Etzion hesder yeshiva, had tried to broker a compromise under which all 62 hesder yeshivas would issue a joint statement denouncing demonstrations in the Israel Defense Forces. It was a series of such demonstrations, in which some of Melamed's students held up signs denouncing the evacuation of settlements, that prompted yesterday's decision.

Sources involved in Druckman's effort said that Melamed was leaning toward accepting the compromise. But then, Barak summoned Melamed for a hearing at 7:30 P.M. last night, without waiting for his decision, they said. And when the rabbi refused to come, saying he "doesn't work for the defense minister," Barak decided to approve the ouster.

Though most hesder rabbis oppose urging soldiers to disobey orders, they also object to Defense Ministry intervention in how a yeshiva head runs his own yeshiva. They therefore plan to hold a meeting to decide on protest measures against Barak's decision.