The Military Rabbinate is refusing to allow a gay rabbi to give lectures at Israel Defense Forces bases: Rabbi Ron Yosef, head of the Hod organization
which aids Orthodox Jewish homosexuals, has asked to address religious and haredi soldiers in recent months – but has been turned down.
An officer in the Military Rabbinate tried to mediate between Rabbi Yosef and Chief Military Rabbi Brigadier-General Rafi Peretz after meeting with the rabbi about a year ago, listening to his views and considering his request.
The circumstances of the Military Rabbinate's refusal were revealed in a document transferred by IDF Ombudsman Brigadier-General (Res.) Yitzhak Brik to an officer in the corps providing religious services to soldiers.
Captain Ofer Han, the chief military rabbi's assistant, explained to the IDF ombudsman that "the chief military rabbi receives many requests from different people, including different rabbis. He says that although he does not meet with every person requesting a meeting, he did hold a one-hour meeting with Rabbi Ron Yosef to discuss different issues related to the army.
"It should be stressed that the chief military rabbi found the time to meet with Rabbi Yosef in light of the importance he attaches to this issue."
In spite of the said meeting, the Chief Rabbinate decided not to allow Rabbi Yosef to lecture in the army. According to an explanation provided by Brigadier-General Peretz's assistant, "the chief military rabbi has been put in charge of the approval of rabbis' entry into IDF bases – in a personal decision made by the chief of staff – in a bid to prevent the entry of rabbinical elements which may evoke disputes."
Captain Han added in his response to the IDF ombudsman that "at such delicate times, in which the Military Rabbinate is in the eye of many storms and is strictly examined in every move it takes, there is a problem allowing a person like Rabbi Ron Yosef to enter IDF bases.
"Even if there is no fundamental problem with his opinions and conduct, the Military Rabbinate is not interested in provoking public rows which may be sparked following his lectures in IDF bases."
The officer who delivered the complaint said that the refusal to approve Rabbi Yosef's request was puzzling, in light of the fact that various rabbis – some of whom had lashed out at the legal system or urged troops to refuse orders – had given lectures to hundreds of soldiers in IDF bases and posts in the past year.
Rabbi Ron Yosef said in response that "in the five years since its establishment, the Hod organization has received at least 124 appeals form religious gay soldiers asking for our help, 37 of them serving in the Military Rabbinate and 55 in regular military service or career service.
"We received requests from military sources to lecture at the bases, and were told that the units' rabbis refused without providing a justified cause. Therefore, we raised the request in a meeting with the chief military rabbi."
Rabbi Yosef added that "Hod, which is not a special care organization, and works in full cooperation with rabbis and professionals, believes that the IDF – including the Military Rabbinate – must help religious gay soldiers in general, and particularly in light of the fact that many haredi troops are about to join the army ranks soon."
The IDF Spokesperson's Office said in response that "the request was submitted to the Military Rabbinate, which turned it over to the Education Corps, which according to army regulations is in charge of educational activities and lectures at IDF bases. When the request is submitted in the acceptable way, it will be examined accordingly."
A military sources added, "The Military Rabbinate is unauthorized to discuss such requests and therefore the appeal was directed to the Education Corps. The request was not submitted to the chief military rabbi."