Days after student murdered by terrorist, head of Samaria yeshiva arrested

A resident of Samaria told TPS she felt that “we are in the middle of a real war, a civil war.”

By Aryeh Savir, TPS

Rabbi Elishama Cohen, the head of the yeshiva (institution for Talmudic studies) at Homesh in Samaria, was arrested on Wednesday by the police on suspicion of violating the ‘Disengagement Law’.

The arrest occurred less than a week after a deadly terror attack in the area last Thursday evening in which Yehuda Dimentman, a student of the yeshiva, was shot dead by a Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist. Two other students were wounded.

During the 2005 unilateral disengagement from Gaza, Israel evicted a bloc of 17 communities in the Gaza Strip and four communities in northern Samaria, including Homesh. Israeli leaders have since called to return to the area, and a yeshiva exists in Homesh, where Yehuda was a student.

However, the Disengagement Law has yet to be repealed, and therefore presence in the area could constitute a breach of the law.

Following the intervention of Samaria Council Chairman Yossi Dagan, Rabbi Cohen was released from custody. It was agreed that the yeshiva head would arrive after the Shiva (seven-day mourning period) for interrogation on suspicion of violating the Disengagement Law.

Rabbi Cohen has been teaching at Homesh for several years and was never before arrested.

The arrest comes amid rumors that the government is planning to destroy the yeshiva after the Shiva ends.

On Sunday, the police blocked the students’ access to the yeshiva and leveled several structures erected at the site the night before.

A source at the yeshiva accused Prime Minister Naftali Bennett of “placing the Disengagement Law back to the table – a reward for the murderers.”

Etya Dimentman, the widow of Yehuda Dimentman, called on government to properly establish the Yeshiva of Homesh “as an answer to the murder.”

Speaking after the deadly attack for the first time on Sunday, Etya said that “Yehuda did not leave me a will. Yesterday a friend of his showed me that they asked him six and a half years ago what he would do if he had only a week left to live, he replied – ‘study Torah in Homesh’. This is his will,” she said.

“Yehuda’s blood is too precious. It is impossible to return to a routine when the blood of such a pure soul is shed,” she added. “I feel Yehuda all the time and he is asking through me to build Homesh.”

President Isaac Herzog met with the family on Tuesday evening and said that “the things you say [about properly establishing a yeshiva] make sense, and I will pass this message on to U.S National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan” with whom he met Wednesday.

Avigdor Dimentman, Yehuda’s brother, told the president that “if they [government] destroy the yeshiva immediately after one of its students was killed in a shooting attack, it will first and foremost harm the national spirit. What the people of Israel have first is the spirit. Do not break the spirit.”

A resident of Samaria told TPS Wednesday she felt that “we are in the middle of a real war, a civil war.”