IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, said Friday during a meeting with religious military cadets that when given a 'blatantly illegal order' by their superiors they have no choice but to disobey it.
Eisenkot was joined by the head of the IDF Manpower Directorate, a senior IDF Spokesperson's Unit official, the Chief Military Rabbi and the Chief Reserve Officer, as the chief of staff visited the Har Etzion Yeshiva in Alon Shvut—a well established and prestigious institution of the religious Zionist movement—as well as its sister institution, the women's Migdal Oz Academy, and met with their rabbinic staff.
Ten officer cadets who are students of the yeshiva also attended the meeting.
In light of recent claims by rabbis that the religious rights of soldiers are being violated during their service, especially in officer training school, the cadets told the officers they do not feel that way and their values and beliefs are not being compromised.
In response to a question about a soldier who is commanded to carry out an order that negates his ideals and beliefs, the Chief of Staff Eisenkot said: "When there is a blatantly illegal order, the soldier must not obey the order."
“During my 40 years of service, I have encountered only a few cases in which illegal orders have been issued,” Eisenkot continued.
“When a soldier is convinced that the order he received from his commander is clearly illegal and contradicts his values, the soldier must refuse to obey the order. The soldier must know that the order will be investigated and if he was right and it was in stark contrast to his values and beliefs, he will be cleared, but if not, he will have to face the consequences,” the chief of staff exclaimed.
At the girl’s academy, the senior officer delegation met with religious students who are on track to enlist, as well as some already serving in the IDF. Military service for women is a matter of controversy not only within the religious community but between rabbis and the army as well.
During the visit, Eisenkot spoke with the yeshiva students at the study hall, and expressed his gratitude for their service.
"Naturally, there are public debates in Israeli society, therefore I am especially happy to hear from cadets who are graduates of the yeshiva that they are successful in preserving their values alongside the friendships they foster with their fellow soldiers who come from other segments of Israeli society," Eisenkot stressed.
“The spirit of the IDF derives from the tradition of the Jewish people and its first priority is striving for victory and carrying out missions, immediately followed by the values of human dignity and friendship," he added.
"I am concerned that only two-thirds of potential enlistees choose to enlist," added Eisenkot. "My message to young people in Israel is to seek the most meaningful service possible and serving as a combat soldier is the most significant form of service," the chief of staff concluded.
The meeting was part of an effort to maintain trust and good relations between the IDF's top brass and members of the religious Zionist community.
Rabbi Yaakov Medan, one of the heads of Har Etzion Yeshiva, who was an important partner in the dialogue between the chief of staff and religious Zionist rabbis, spoke during the meeting of the military's importance.
"The army plays a very important role in creating cohesion in Israeli society and we should all dedicate ourselves to ensure that this ambition is realized,” he exclaimed.
“In the ten days of repentance (between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) we have to do our soul-searching and thank the people who have chosen to dedicate their lives to the security of the state. I thank the Almighty that he appointed Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot at this time to head the army,” the rabbi concluded.