At the beginning of the month, IDF Chief Rabbi Brigadier-General Rafi Peretz sent out a pamphlet to hundreds of IDF rabbinate officers and non-commissioned officers including enlisted IDF rabbis and reservists. The pamphlet was put together recently by the head of the Military Yeshiva Academy of Bnei David-Eli, Rabbi Eli Sadan.
Over some 46 pages Rabbi Sadan expounds on subjects that have recently been on the public agenda with relation to the IDF and religion, including the exclusion of women.
Rabbi Sadan who is considered to be a Zionist and pro-establishment rabbi expressed his moderate opinions on the issues and called on soldiers to remain in the room when women sing during ceremonies. He also came out against extremist haredi rabbis and called on unity within the army ranks.
Moreover, in the pamphlet he published sharp criticism against the "price tag" phenomenon: "Stupid, outrageous actions carried out by anarchists. It's a disaster. There is no license to hurt Arabs or mosques. Everything possible must be done in order to root out the violence against IDF soldiers. God forbid, it could end in bloodshed," he wrote.
Sadan was also firm in his opposition to "any kind of religious coercion." Yet alongside the moderate and unequivocal statements is also Sadan's political manifesto. "The pamphlet faithfully reflects the heart of our halachic point of view on the topic of joint cooperation," wrote Peretz in a letter attached to the pamphlet, the distribution of which left many in the IDF rabbinate puzzled.
Sadan was criticized a few months ago for stating that former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin "had no heritage as a prime minister and a leader." The pamphlet distributed among the troops also left no room for doubt with regards to Sadan's political statements.
"The Oslo Accords were achieved through the votes of representatives elected by the right wing who sold their votes to the Left in a completely immoral way," he wrote. "The destruction of Gush Katif was carried out by a government that made a mockery of democracy's ethics."
Rabbi Eli Sadan's pamphlet
As for the "price tag" actions, Sadan wonders "how people fall into such idiocy? I believe the source is bitter despair. The unbearable ease with which Arabs can constantly steal entire herds of sheep and goats and uproot and destroy orchards, destroy settler property and no one opens their mouth to make a sound, and the defense establishment remains incapable of giving a fitting response – that is very frustrating!"
He added: "The media never report these incidents that occur with great frequency, and that is frustrating indeed and leaves you with the sense that you're alone and that no one cares about you." Yet he noted: This does not give anyone legitimization to act immorally and irresponsibly."
'Compatible with IDF chief's decision'
On the issue of the exclusion of women, Sadan claims that "there is no such phenomenon in the IDF and the media is simply trying to confuse everyone. The western culture that plasters the exposed body of a woman, dressed in the latest fashions on huge billboards does not respect women more, in fact it belittles them. A woman's value does not stem from her body rather it is in her kindness and her human sensibility."
The IDF Spokesmen responded to the statements and explained that the Chief IDF Rabbi Rafi Peretz distributed a letter where he included a reference to an external pamphlet which was written in reaction to the fact that the issue of women's singing at public ceremonies was raised on the public agenda.
"In the letter the chief rabbi notes that it was sent out 'in light of several incidents that brought the matter of the relations between the IDF Rabbinate and the IDF to the public's attention.' The statements made in the pamphlet on the topic of women's singing are compatible with the IDF chief rabbi's outlook and are compatible with IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz's decision and those are the comments that the chief IDF rabbi referred the officers to in the letter."