Page last updated at 15:23 GMT, Monday, 14 December 2009

Israeli defence ministry ends army link with seminary

An Israeli soldier prays during a military excercise in November
Israelis can choose to combine national service with religious study

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak has severed ties between the military and an orthodox Jewish seminary after it called on troops to disobey orders.

The head Rabbi of the Har Bracha seminary, or yeshiva, said soldiers should refuse to evacuate Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Mr Barak announced the move after Rabbi Eliezer Melamed refused to meet him to and discuss his position on Sunday.

Yeshiva are theological colleges where Israelis study the Talmud.

The Israeli military and around 40 Jewish seminaries have a decades-old arrangement, known in Hebrew as "Hesder", allowing observant Jewish men to combine military service and religious studies.

There are reportedly 150 students in the Har Bracha yeshiva.

The government is now looking at other ways that they can fulfil their national service obligations, the defence ministry said.

'Disobey orders'

Last month, four Israeli soldiers were disciplined for protesting against the evacuation of Jewish settlements.

The men received sentences ranging from three weeks in jail to confinement to their base for hanging an anti-eviction banner at their barracks near Hebron.

Israel, occupied territories map

The heads of other yeshiva had condemned the soldier's protests, but Rabbi Melamed had called several times for soldiers to disobey orders.

Following the announcement from the defence ministry, other yeshiva Rabbis came out in support of Har Bracha.

Religious Jews see the West Bank as part of the Holy Land, given to them by God.

Israeli reservists have signed a petition requesting exemption from Jewish settlement evacuations.

In October a group of soldiers disrupted their swearing-in ceremony in Jerusalem, calling for continued Jewish settlement in the West Bank.

All settlements built on land occupied by Israel since 1967 are illegal under international law.

Close to 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built on occupied territory since 1967.

Israel disputes the international law on this issue, but does deem those settlements built without Israeli government permits as illegal and from time to time instructs it soldiers and military police to evacuate them.

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Haaretz Barak must stand against yeshiva - 5 hrs ago
Inter Press Service MIDEAST: Occupation Eats Away Israel's Heart and Soul - 9 hrs ago
New York Times West Bank Is Tense After Arson at Mosque - 32 hrs ago
France24 Israel army cuts ties with seminary in settlement dispute - 41 hrs ago
Washington PostIsrael expels Jewish seminary from army deal - 42 hrs ago
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