The Israel Defense Forces announced Monday that it intends on demanding that hundreds of career officers, who were illegally ordained as rabbis and received additional pay for their title, refund the money – hundreds of thousands of shekels each.
"This is a complex step, but we are going to see it through," a military source told Ynet. "There is absolutely no reason for someone who illegally obtained a degree to enjoy the taxpayers' money."
The IDF's Personnel Directorate issued those involved a letter, informing them both of the decision and their right to appeal it.
The affair, which has been the focal of a Military Police investigation for the past two years, revolves around some 300 career and enlisted officers, who have allegedly submitted false rabbinical certifications. The title of rabbi did little to help them in their everyday military duties, but did constitute reason for a pay raise, of up to NIS 2,000 (approximately $560) a month.
As the investigation progressed, the Military Police found many of the new "rabbis" bought their titles, paying the relevant schools for ignoring the fact that they did not meet the necessary requirements.
Others were supposedly ordained by institutions which were not qualified to give the certification at all, and most were found never to have studied the subject at all.
Military investigators deposed hundreds of officers: Some were later subjected to disciplinary actions and others may face criminal charges. An investigation against a third group of officers is still pending.
Lieutenant-Colonel Meirav Sharet, head of the Military Retirement Services Department's payroll unit, sent those involved the following letter: "We have found… that the certification you submitted to the Military Rabbinate in order to be made eligible for a raise, was presented despite your failing to meet the necessary requirements.
"Furthermore… we have found that since you have falsely represented yourself as having the necessary credentials, you do not qualify for the pay raise allotted to military rabbis."
"This investigation has taken time to mature. We had more than one unit working on in and we had to wait for the Military Police to conclude its investigation," said a military source.
"Now that the facts are clear, we sent those involved notifications… they will face a committee made up of (personnel, legal and rabbinate) professional, which will review each case independently and make its decision and recommendations accordingly."
The committee will also decide on the manner in which the reclaimed fund would be collected.