Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, a central educational figure in the religious sector, called LGBT persons "perverts" at a conference on Monday and condemned the IDF for having permitted them to insert their worldview in the military system. The revelation of his remarks comes at the end of the week following the cancellation of the Be'er Sheva Pride parade and the uncovering of homophobic remarks from the incoming chief rabbi of the IDF.
The rabbinical conference that Levinstein was addressing was against "the reform of the "Effect of the reform of the State of Israel's identity." Levinstein said, regarding LGBT persons, "There's a crazy movement here of people who have just lost the normalcy of life, and this group is driving an entire country crazy. It's going into the army at full strength, and nobody dares open their mouth to speak up."
Levinstein is the head of the Bnei David pre-army preparatory yeshiva in Eli (north of Ramallah), through which most religious senior IDF officers have passed. As such, the rabbi normally takes a more stately approach to relations between faith and the army and is in close connection and cooperation with the IDF's upper echelons. He was a member in various committees that have shaped the IDF in educational and ethical matters, such as combining men and women.
At the rabbinical conference, Levinstein claimed that, until a few months ago, the value system of religious Zionism was consistent with that of the army and the state, but in recent years, he had identified a dramatic change in the state's identity and the IDF's values.
"In the military, this has the gravest consequences because at the end of the day, those who protect Israel are the soldiers who need to be determined about the righteousness of their path," he said.
The rabbi addressed the military's education regarding relations to others, criticizing the chef education officer's, Avner Paz-Tzuk, use of the Hebrew word for "proud" when referring to LGBT persons, which is common in Israeli parlance: "As part of pluralism, they educate the soldiers and officers about what he calls 'proud.' I don't dare call it that; 'perverts' is what I call them. At the Officers' Training School, there are lectures on perverts. Last year, we managed to stop them; we said that they were an infringement on the individual rights of religious people, but the issue isn't off the agenda."
"There were also movies on the matter. There were soldiers who walked out of the movies that were presenting the perverts' way of life who were tried (for it)," continued Levinstein, referring to the IDF practice of holding courts martial before a commander for soldiers' infractions, such as being late, refusing an order, or wearing one's uniform incorrectly. "By chance, the battalion commander (who tried them) saw the value in it and let them stay on the course and didn't kick them out, even though they refused the order to stay for the film."
Levinstein recounted a story of a soldier in the pilots' course who was allegedly forced to visit a center of the LGBT community in Tel Aviv, where soldiers were sent to volunteer. This apparently conflicted with the soldier's worldview and offended his feelings.
Levinstin accused the IDF of "eliminating" the Jewish Awareness Department in the Military Rabbinate, such that now the chief education officer is "the absolute and only authority in the field of values education, and he sets new values that we haven't heard of and our ancestors didn't hear of."
According to Levinstein, Paz-Tzuk is disseminating his pluralistic worldview amongst senior officers. He claimed, "There's an attempt to identify and mark religious soldiers, especially officers, with the religious-Zionist worldview of our school. I say these things unequivocally; there's proof. Senior officers say that in courses, they can't open their mouths; there's politically correctness. There's a system of values that is permitted to be expressed and a system of values that is forbidden to be discussed in the army. Every officer knows today that if he opens his mouth, he'll be marked."