Head of the Har Bracha Hesder Yeshiva Rabbi Eliezer Melamed called to revoke the military's authority over appointing the chief military rabbi and entrusting it instead in the hands of the chief rabbis of Israel.
According to Melamed, the first Chief Military Rabbi Shlomo Goren was appointed by the chief rabbis, and this tradition, in his view, should be kept ahead of appointing a replacement to Rabbi Avihai Ronzki who is ending his term.
"That is the appropriate way to appoint a chief rabbi, and not the way it has been done recently by the defense minister and chief of staff," wrote Melamed in the Besheva publication's Thursday issue. His explanation: "They do not necessarily consider upholding mitzvoth and Torah in the military as a main consideration when selecting a candidate."
After taking a few weeks hiatus from writing on issues relating to military-religion relations in his weekly column, Rabbi Melamed wrote this week a historic overview of conflicts relating to this subject – as experienced by soldiers ever since the War of Independence.
"During the first decades of the State of Israel, the memory of some one thousand religious and even haredi soldiers who have fallen in the war had been forgotten," said Rabbi Melamed, "People always claimed that only secular soldiers sacrifice their lives in the war and therefore they are the only ones buried in military cemeteries, although the percentage of fallen religious soldiers was proportional to the size of the religious community in Israel.
"This issue was not given public expression, until even the religious public accepted it as a fact," Melamed lamented.
According to the rabbi, the IDF commanders' "degrading attitude" toward religious soldiers and their special needs have pushed religious leaders into taking a stance that opposes military service and pushed national religious soldiers to either adopt the haredi point of view, or compromise on observation of the the commandments.
"During the first years it was only a small percentage," Melamed wrote, "but slowly their numbers increased, and for the past few decades some 30% of parents began sending their kids to haredi school systems. The condition of religious soldiers in the military is one of the main factors that prompted the massive shift in the education system."
Melamed also complained that while the defense minister, chief of staff and head of the IDF's Human Resources Branch were willing to "get down on their knees" and fulfill all haredi demands so that they can enlist them, religious soldiers are ordered to "harm their own people" and are forbidden from consulting their rabbis.