Eight Har Bracha yeshiva students are missing from military service and are "wanted" by the army, including three combat soldiers from the Kfir brigade who left their base without permission. Ynet has learned that they intended to turn themselves over to their commanding officers in the coming days so that the IDF would be forced to cope with their protest.
A few weeks ago, some students from the Har Bracha yeshiva started what they called an "operational strike". Since then they have refused to take part in anything their units do.
Some have already been tried and jailed, but three others have been treated forgivingly by their officers and have not been punished. They interpreted this as an escape from coping with their ideological protest, and decided to make their protest more extreme.
"The soldiers hope that (the army) won't be able to ignore desertion by officers," one of their comrades told Ynet. "It's important to them (the army) understands that the strike is not a disciplinary offense of problematic guys. These are disciplined and excellent soldiers who want to get the IDF back to its real purpose. For this they are willing to run away from the base and even sit in jail."
Another five Har Bracha students have joined the three. The army has declared them 'absent' after they refused to transfer to a yeshiva within the hesder arrangement even though as soldiers they are required to be in active service or in an institution recognized by the IDF.
About a month ago, the Har Bracha yeshiva announced it would not try to change the defense minister's decision, and would try to return to the arrangement with the IDF as a hesder yeshiva, enabling those who wish to continue in the same track to study at a different yeshiva.
The yeshiva released a message, saying "Due to the threats and pressure from the defense minister on the Har Bracha yeshiva students, the yeshiva management has decided to assist the students to sign up in a different yeshiva, so that they can finish the hesder track in the IDF."
The yeshiva management decided that from now on students at the yeshiva would follow the same track as in other haredi yeshivas, postponing their military service till the end of their studies.
"We are satisfied with our public standing despite the high price the yeshiva is paying. We are sure that the connection with our students will not be harmed, and they will continue to visit, study and benefit from the spirit of the yeshiva. They are all loved and wanted in our Beit Midrash."
Har Bracha announced that "those students who decided not to accept the solution we offered and continue at the yeshiva while being prepared to be jailed, are sanctifying God… They are the future of the nation. We hope that in time, the important people at the Defense Ministry will change or return to their religion, and then Har Bracha will be able once more to offer its students to proudly take on military service while studying on the hesder yeshiva track."