JERUSALEM (JTA) – A West Bank yeshiva was removed from a special army program after its head rabbi refused to attend a hearing over his urging of soldiers’ insubordination.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak late Sunday evening informed the Har Bracha yeshiva that it would no longer be permitted to participate in the hesder program, which combines religious studies with army service.
The cutting of ties between the army and the yeshiva comes after Rabbi Eliezer Melamed refused repeated requests to meet with Barak over statements the yeshiva head reportedly had made urging his students to refuse orders, such as assisting in the evacuation of West Bank settlements and outposts.
The students will be allowed to transfer to other hesder yeshivas, according to reports.
Melamed told the news service Arutz-7 that he refused to attend a hearing because “One must not sit in discussion under government pressure, and a rabbi must be able to express his inner truth.
“I will not surrender to Barak’s tyrannical pressure, and that is why I did not agree to attend a ‘hearing’ under an ultimatum, expressions that show no respect towards those who deserve the freedom of thought and expression,” he said.
Melamed said that he never advised his students to disobey Israeli army orders and that he would have advised against recent protests.
Hundreds of reservists who studied in hesder yeshivas have written a letter to Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi saying they will boycott their reserve duty unless the yeshiva is reinstated to the program.
The yeshiva will lose 20 percent of its operating budget, or about $185,000, due to its ouster from the program.