For the first time in Israel's history, a Yeshiva rabbi is explicitly calling on students to evade army draft in a bid to avoid taking part in the evacuation of settlements, Israel's leading newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported Sunday.
"If you think the IDF will force you to evict Jews from their homes or to go against your faith – don't join the army," Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, the head of the Elon Moreh yeshiva, told students, some of whom are already serving in the army, others will soon be enlisted.
During the disengagement of Israel from Gush Katif and northern Samaria last summer, many prominent religious Zionist rabbis, including those who were opposed to disobeying orders, said a soldier must do whatever he can in a bid to evade participating in the evacuation. The rabbis stated that only if a soldier fails to be exempt from the task, should he consider refusing orders.
At the time of the pullout, Rabbi Levanon's students led the trend of insubordination in the army, and most reported they made the decision following consultations with their yeshiva head. However, Levanon himself insisted he had never instructed his students how to act, saying he left the decision in their hands, hoping they would come to the right choice.
In wake of the withdrawal and the multitude of disobedience incidents among yeshiva students, the army contemplated putting an end to the special service arrangement with two yeshivas, one of which was Rabbi Levanon's. The IDF also considered revoking the budget allocated to the yeshivas by the Defense Ministry, but no decision has been taken on the matter until today.
In his talk before students, Rabbi Levanon further stated that "if the IDF does not go through a reorganization of its system, many good young people will lose the motivation to serve."
In his declarations, Rabbi Levanon has raised the bar and gave soldiers under his spiritual guidance an exceptionally severe permit not to join the army if they believe that during their service further communities will be evacuated.