Our Rabbi & Military Exemption for Yeshiva Students

Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook

Rav Shear Yashuv Cohain, son of the Nazir and Rav of Haifa, related that during the War of Independence, there was a major dispute between Rabbis – including within Yeshivat Mercaz Ha-Rav, if yeshiva students should be drafted into the military. The students followed the path of our Rabbi and the Nazir and were active in the Haganah, Etzel and Lechi. During the waiting period, after the UN votes and before the end of the British Mandate, Rav Shear Yashuv would learn in the yeshiva. One day he left the yeshiva and saw a broadside with the huge title that Maran Ha-Rav Kook opposed drafting yeshiva students into the army, and it included harsh quotes from one of his letters regarding this issue. He was unsure what to do and left deep in thought when he bumped into our Rabbi. Our Rabbi, who recognized his state, said: "Shear Yashuv, what happened? Why are you so upset and pale?" He told him what happened and pointed to the broadside. Our Rabbi roared: "This is a distortion! This is a total distortion!" over and over.
After he calmed down, he explained that these quotes were taken from a letter of Maran Ha-Rav Kook to Rav Dr. Hertz, Chief Rabbi of England, regarding being drafted into the British army, which the latter presented to the government. Yeshiva students who arrived in London from Russia and Poland as refugees of World War One and were learning Torah were left off the list of those exempt from military service (for example, priests, who were exempted). Maran Ha-Rav Kook admonished him, and said that this has nothing to do with the war for Jerusalem. Rav Shear Yashuv encouraged and aided our Rabbi to publish a booklet clarifying this issue.
During the difficult battle for the Old City in Jerusalem, the Jewish community was defeated and Rav Shear Yashuv, who was badly wounded on his leg, and the surviving fighters were taken into Jordanian captivity. He thus did not merit seeing the publication of the booklet he initiated. After approximately eight months and the establishment of the State, Rav Shear Yashuv was released and taken to Zichron Yaakov for rehabilitation. Within a day, at a time when buses were rare, our Rabbi appeared outside his window. He entered the room, hugged and kissed him and burst out crying. He removed a small booklet from his pocket and gave it to him. It was dedicated to Rav Shear Yashuv.