Has Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu had a change of heart?
In a surprising interview with ultra-Orthodox daily "Mishpacha" (family), the spiritual leader of the national-religious world, and one of its most strident opponents of the disengagement plan, said Gush Katif
residents should leave their homes quietly and called on IDF soldiers not to refuse orders to evacuate settlements.
Showing a rarely seen moderate side, the former Sephardic chief rabbi repeated his opinion that the disengagement program is illegitimate, but also said that while his followers should voice their objections to the program, they should not break the law or fight other Jews in the process.
"Several residents have asked me what they should do if this decree actually comes to pass, God forbid. I told them they mustn't raise a hand against anyone, not to fight with police," he said.
"(I told them to) sit at home, pour out your hearts to God and pray that He has mercy on his children and ask him to reverse this evil decree. Don't help soldiers who come to take you away, but don't fight them, either. We must prevent verbal or physical attacks on all Jews, whoever they may be," he said.
Tells soldiers not to refuse orders
The rabbi also called on Orthodox soldiers not to refuse orders to evacuate settlements, saying they must remove residents "with broken hearts and tears in your eyes," instead of allowing "all sorts of wicked
people" to drag settlers out of their homes with glee.
"We must not allow a situation of Jews fighting Jews," he repeated.
Torah and proper behavior
No less surprising were the rabbi's comments about protesters who have blocked rush hour traffic on major thoroughfares numerous times in recent months.
"I am against blocking traffic or fighting with police," he said. "We must protest, but we must maintain the laws of the Torah and proper behavior."
Eliyahu said the Torah's commandment to rebuke errant Jews (Leviticus 19:17) must be carried out gently, and said there are many reasons not to block traffic.
"What if an ambulance is taking someone to hospital?" he said. "What if a son is going to visit his sick father? What if someone is rushing home to make sure he can say the afternoon prayers? What if a family is rushing to make sure they can circumcise their baby before the sun sets on the eighth day? How can you justify preventing any of these people from reaching their destinations?"
Torah, Torah, Torah
Eliyahu added a message for young people who reject the mitzvah of Torah study in favor of fighting with police or sitting in jail.
"I say to these young people, 'fight (the disengagement) with the best weapon the Jewish people has ever had: Torah, Torah, and more Torah,'" he said.
He also told people to be wary of "wicked" individuals looking for an excuse to tarnish the name of the entire national-religious community.
Asked if he would be willing to discuss the disengagement with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Eliyahu said he is concerned Sharon's aides would turn his words around, but would be happy to do so, in principle.
"They are very adapt at turning statements on their head," he said. "They could attribute quotes to me that I never said."