In response to the decision by Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (Likud) not to renew the controversial seizure of Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva (Torah academy – ed.) in Yitzhar, Samaria, staff and students are now preparing to celebrate, over a year after their yeshiva was turned into a Border Patrol headquarters.
Arutz Sheva spoke with Rabbi Menachem Ben-Shahar, the head of a department in the yeshiva, who noted a celebratory party is being planned with yeshiva head Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh.
The yeshiva was seized last April after cyclical clashes occurred between security forces and an extremist element in the town, which began when a house was destroyed by the IDF, sparking tire-slashings of two IDF cars. In response, four local homes were demolished, triggering a clash with local youths and the destruction of an IDF outpost.
However, the joy will only be complete when the Education Ministry returns the budget to the yeshiva which was frozen, says Rabbi Ben-Shahar.
According to the rabbi, returning the yeshiva is an important step but there is great damage to the yeshiva hall that still needs to be fixed from the Border Patrol's stint in the building, and for that funds are needed.
"The repentance will be complete when they also return the funds from the Education Ministry; there was a violent step here to silence people," said Rabbi Ben-Shahar. "They blackened our reputations in all kinds of articles, and then it was decided at the Education Ministry through all sorts of claims that they need to stop the budget to the yeshiva."
"We hope that those who understand that you don't seize a yeshiva will understand that there's no reason for our yeshiva not to receive its budget like every other," he added. "In our yeshiva the Torah is studied in the spirit of Rabbi Ginsburgh, and the study of Torah even if it is in a particular spirit should not be fought against."
"The army doesn't seize mosques"
Speaking about the decision to remove the Border Patrol from the yeshiva, he noted, "we are certainly happy that after more than a year, the defense minister understood that this was a serious and ridiculous step, a step that isn't effective."
He continued, noting, "after all, the studies continued even during these months in the spirit of study of Od Yosef Chai."
Indeed yeshiva activities were moved to a separate complex, with students only allowed into the yeshiva at certain times for short periods.
"We are happy that they have repented and returned what was stolen," said Rabbi Ben-Shahar. "We never heard that when a Molotov cocktail is thrown from an Arab town the army seizes the mosque, and therefore were are happy that the army has gotten down off the tree."
Ironically, when the site was occupied by the IDF last April, Yitzhar spokesman Ezri Tovi pointed out the yeshiva looks out on a mosque that has long called to destroy the state of Israel.
The mosque has had a destruction order against it from the Supreme Court for many years, although Tovi noted that the state has never acted against the illegal mosque.