"Rabbis aren't bound by democracy's restrictions" – according to Elon Moreh's Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, one of Judea and Samaria's senior rabbis. At a debate discussing the involvement of rabbis in public struggles, on Wednesday, Rabbi Levanon stated that the democratic system of governance and decision making "distorts reality" because it creates a false compromising middle ground, which is why rabbis are committed to the Torah - the "absolute truth" – and are not committed to democracy.
At the debate, the rabbi referred to controversial statements made by him and his colleagues and decreed that rabbis don't have the privilege of keeping their opinions to themselves, even if they contradict the values of democracy. "People are compelled to say 'half coffee, half tea'," he claimed, "Rabbis are free to think pure, clear thoughts, even if their remarks may seem odd at times. Rabbis can say things that politicians, legalists and democratic thinkers can't".
Professor Yedidya Stern, a member of the panel investigating the State's treatment of the Gush Katif evacuees and vice president of the Israel Democracy Institute, agreed that rabbis have the right to free speech, just like any other citizen, but warned against a situation where they present their positions as "the Torah's position" and a source of binding Jewish law.
Stern stressed that his statements referred to verdicts from the Left as well, like that of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef which permits the withdrawal from settlements in the framework of a peace agreement. "This is not purely an ideological stance, it is simply a statement with an exclamation point at the end," he noted.
Author and journalist Elyashiv Reichner, whose book on the evacuation of Gush Katif "The Orange Struggle", was launched at the event, responded to Stern's statements and said that the considerable involvement of rabbis in the struggle originated from their position as public and spiritual leaders and not from a place of religious authority.
Rabbi Levanon said, "We do not force, rather, people congregate at our doors to ask what Jewish law says on the matter, and rabbis must not cut corners."Former Neve Dekalim Rabbi Yigal Kaminetzky summed up the debate and said: "There is nothing so complicated as being a rabbi. In fact, it is in the hours of crisis that you lack the privilege of standing on the sidelines, and whatever you do – your decisions will be attacked from all directions. I don't see what we could have done differently. In retrospect, I would have acted the same way. Had we not acted as we did, we would have been failing in our duties.
Yesha Council Chairman Danny Dayan referred to the ongoing campaign against the construction freeze and called on settlers to connect with the people in Israel in order to fulfill their political and ideological goals, all the while maintaining the power of deterrence and develop a "balance of terror" against the Israeli public and the government.
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