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April 15, 1994 - Image 68

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-04-15

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A Volatile Brew

Rabbinic rulings that soldiers must disobey orders to uproot settlers
heightens Israel's dangerous mix of religion and politics



uch blood will be shed
here. Jewish blood will
be shed!" cried former
Chief Rabbi Shlomo
Goren into the microphone at
the mass rally in the West Bank
town of Kiryat Arba.
That angry prediction gave
further credence to the fear that
Israel was once again headed
for a war — this time with it-
self. At the heart of the matter
is the fate of the 415 Jewish set-
tlers living in Hebron.
Following the massacre there
in February, the PLO initially
demanded that the Jewish set-
tlers be removed from Hebron.
But when the Israeli govern-
ment stood firm behind the
terms of the Declaration of Prin-
ciples signed with the Palestin-
ian Liberation Organization —
which states that no settle-
ments are to be dismantled dur-

ing the five-year interim peri-
od, the PLO contented itself
with the temporary stationing
of 160 observers from Norway,
Denmark, and Italy in Hebron,
the return to office of Palestin-
ian Mayor Mustafa Natshe —
deposed at the urging of settlers
a decade ago — and the arrival
this week of the first Palestin-
ian policemen in Gaza.
After the agreement on the
new security arrangements had
been signed, Prime Minister
Yitzhak Rabin made it dear, in
separate meetings with opposi-
tion leaders and representatives
of the Yesha Council, that al-
though the idea had been raised
by some ministers, there was
now no intention to evacuate
the settlers from, or even con-
centrate their presence in, He-
Nevertheless, something

close to frenzy has spread
among the religious settlers in
the West Bank over this issue.
The spark that ignited the lat-
est furor was the rabbinical rul-
ing (psak hakwha) delivered by

Jews must "oppose
by sacrificing their
lives the criminal
deed of evacuating

Rabbi Shlomo Goren

former Chief Rabbi Avraham
Shapira, Rabbi Moshe-Zvi Ne-
ria of the Bnei Akiva move-
ment, and Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli
directing soldiers to reject any
order to evacuate Jews from

Their decision came just a
few weeks after a similar ruling
by Rabbi Goren that Jews must
"oppose by sacrificing their lives
the criminal deed of evacuating
Hebron" — prompting fears of
a "Masada-like action" or other
desperate acts by fanatical set-
tlers. Religion and politics have
of course long been a potent mix
in Israel. But in the eyes of
many citizens, the three-man
halachic ruling has crossed and
new and highly dangerous line
by forcing soldiers to choose be-
tween obeying their comman-
ders and following the dictates
of their religious mentors.
This is not the first time the
broad issue of disobeying orders
on the grounds of conscience
has arisen in Israel. Conscien-
tious objection (the refusal to
serve at all) is pretty rare, and

a refusal to obey orders for
moral reasons has been simi-
larly uncommon. More wide-
spread, though still quite
limited, has been the refusal to
serve in the occupied territories,
for which a few dozen soldiers
have been imprisoned.
Others — mostly reservists
— have avoided duty in the ter-
ritories by reaching quiet, ad
hoc understandings with their
commanders, who were glad to
keep the matter from becoming
a cause celebre.
But the rabbinical ruling as
done just that by forcing the re-
ligious section of the population
to choose between its doing duty
to "Caesar" and maintaining its
fidelity to God.
If, indeed, that is what the
current issue is really about.
For the fact is that not every ob-
servant Jew is obliged to follow


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