Army officials: Military rabbi must watch his tongue
Following statements attributed to IDF Chief Rabbi Brig. Gen. Avichai Ronsky that girls do not need to enlist to the army, military human resource officials said, 'He needs to remember his status and its importance.' Rabbis associates explain: He thinks every young woman can enlist
Sources in the human resources unit said that even if the rabbi was speaking only to the religious population, "He needs to remember his status and its importance. He must watch his tongue. Often, statements are likely to be misinterpreted by populations that are not well-versed on the subject. There could be implications that he did not intend."
Following Haaretz's publication that quoted the rabbi as saying, "I personally think that a priori, women should not serve in the army." Ronsky's associates clarified that the rabbi believes that every young woman who wants to enlist can do so. "The rabbinate, for its part, will make sure that she will do her service in the best possible surroundings so that she is not hurt and so that religious soldiers around her will not be hurt," one of them said.
The IDF rabbi spoke about two weeks ago at a conference held for religious women soldiers. "His statements made before the religious population are often misinterpreted from what he intended," asserted one of the rabbi's associates. According to sources in the military rabbinate, there are halakhic readings that are accepted by a broad spectrum of rabbis.
However, the chief IDF rabbi has never taken any action to reduce the number of young women enlisting to the military.
"The opposite is true. The rabbi is trying together with other officials to create the most comfortable environment possible for enlisted girls so that they will carry out their service in the best possible way and will contribute to the military and to themselves," one associate said.
The rabbi's associates explained that the rabbi's statements made to the said religious forum are not rightly understood by those who are unfamiliar with the halakha.
'Women have served since before army's establishment'
The IDF Spokesperson's Unit in response said the rabbi does not hold this position.
"An inquiry with IDF Chief Rabbi Brig. Gen. Avichai Ronsky showed that he is not of the opinion that there is no place for women in the IDF," the statement said.
The IDF added: "Women's service in the IDF is set, valued and an obligation by law and according to the security reality, and has existed since the IDF's establishment and even before, in the Haganah and the underground resistance and will continue.
"On behalf of Chief of Staff Major-General Gabi Ashkenazi, the matter of women's service in the IDF is not discussed in any level within the IDF, including the military rabbinate. Most of the IDF's efforts in this context are focused on raising motivation to serve, opening paths and more professions for women and their involvement in all alignments, including combat."
Former IDF Spokesperson MK Miri Regev (Likud) said in response, "The chief rabbi's statement is unnecessary. I expect him to take back what he said. We must not allow such a statement to represent the spirit of the officers in the IDF. Women's military service is important and meaningful. This declaration is contrary to the spirit of the IDF, which enlists men and women alike for meaningful service. The IDF's strength, as is that of Israeli society, rests on equal opportunity between the sexes."
MK Orit Zuaretz (Kadima) called the chief of staff and the head of military man power to consider dismissing the chief rabbi "because of the severity of his statements and their capacity to affect the functioning of the IDF as an organization as well as the stances of officers and soldiers who see in him an education and spiritual leader."
According to Zuaretz, "The chief rabbi's statements are primitive and dark. There is no place for such statements to be voiced in an organization such as the IDF, which serves as the military of the people and draws most of its man power from women."
This is not the first time Ronsky's statements have made headlines. During Operation Cast Lead, Ronsky regularly ventured into enemy territory together with the soldiers, and even distributed a pamphlet of rules to them that provoked strong waves of protest among the left wing.
Among other things, the pamphlet instructed, "When one takes pity on a cruel enemy, one in turn is cruel to innocent and upstanding soldiers. This is a dreadful lack of morality. This is not an amusement park game in which good sportsmanship requires you to step back. This is a war against murderers. War is war."
Amnon Meranda contributed to this report