Senior ranking retired military rabbis have called on Israel Defense Forces soldiers to refuse orders that go against Halacha. In an unprecedented statement released Wednesday, they declare their loyalty to the stand of former Chief Military Rabbi Shlomo Goren, and call on serving rabbis to follow his example and instruct soldiers in their units to do the same.
Signatories of the statement include former Military Rabbis Harel Yosef (deputy chief rabbi), Haniel Farber (Education Corps), Avshalom Katzir (Air Force), Shlomo Graverchik (Homefront Command), Yosef Wasserman (Ground Forces) and Meir Kaler (Navy), who asserted that they spoke for "all rabbis and religious officers."
The document, distributed by the Lahav Fund for Strengthening Judaism in the IDF in which the rabbis are involved, claimed that "there are clear guidelines regarding orders that go against Halacha."
They quote from the IDF's standing orders, noting, "A commander that gives an order that desecrates Shabbat (clearly this means any order that goes against Halacha) must coordinate this in advance with the military rabbi. If it has not been coordinated, the soldier must clarify with his commander if failure to carry out the command could be detrimental to security, and if he is convinced that the command goes against Halakha he must not carry it out."
"Otherwise, carrying out the command that goes against halacha is recognized to be just like any other illegal command," the rabbis conclude. They also assert that advisors and other professionals such as doctors can take a similar stand, and that doctors' orders are binding on commanders. "It must not be thought that there is a contradiction between a doctor's order and that of a commander."
Regarding the case in which soldiers in the elite combat regiment Kfir waved signs calling on soldiers to refuse orders, and the crisis between the IDF and the Har Bracha Yeshiva, the rabbis wrote: "We protest the unrelenting attacks against the hesder yeshiva and the defense minister's far-reaching treatment of the issue in deciding to remove the Har Bracha Yeshiva from the IDF." The rabbis claim that this was a case of incitement against the yeshivas and their students, and that it must cease immediately.
"As a rule, we believe that there is no place for this kind of protest in the IDF, but the hesder yeshiva rabbis do not encourage this, and it is clear that the defense minister is taking internal political needs into account. In the framework of our military service, we have dealt with and assisted hesder yeshiva soldiers and religious soldiers, and stood by their side as much as we could. By all accounts, these soldiers are highly regarding in the IDF – in all units and in all ranks."
The rabbis end their statement with a direct call to the IDF: "We demand that the security services and their leaders act according to orders anchored in the IDF as legal military commands, that they do not infringe clear written commands that have been followed since the IDF was founded, and that they enable religious soldiers to follow their religious obligations according to the Torah and halacha."