Photo Credit: Yoni Markovitzki / IDF Spokesperson / Flash 90
IDF soldiers training from the IDF Caracal battalion which is made up of male and female combat soldiers fighting side by side.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett has attacked Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman again — over his ultimatum to Rabbi Yigal Levenstein to resign or risk revocation of the recognition of the hesder yeshiva and paramilitary academy at the Jewish community of Eli.

Bennett wrote in a statement on his Facebook page that Liberman’s threats, however, were “typical babble.” He added that he totally rejects the “unfortunate comments by Rabbi Levenstein against women serving in the IDF. One should and must discuss the appropriate combination, but not the way the rabbi phrased it…

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“Liberman threatened to close [the academy] for political reasons,” Bennett continued. “The last thing he cares about is an IDF soldier, come on.” The minister contended that Liberman’s primary goal was to make a “cynical political gain on the backs of religious Zionism.”

Bennett, chairman of the Religious Zionist Bayit Yehudi party, said a week ago that he has no intention of complying with Liberman’s demands to de-fund the academy.

“The Eli academy produced heroes of Israel such as Ro’i Klein, Eliraz Peretz, Immanuel Morena and numerous other wonderful soldiers and citizens, and it will continue its routine activity,” Bennett said. “Whatever must be corrected will be corrected, especially with regard to unfortunate statements — but without unnecessary threats,” he added. The statement came in response to a demand by Liberman to stop funding the academy headed by Rabbi Levenstein.

The uproar came after a statement by the rabbi last week in which he said that religiously observant girls who enter the military with Jewish values end up leaving their service confused and with distortions in their value system. He spoke out against the idea of drafting religious females, and also opposed mixed gender combat units.

In response to the defense minister he wrote that he was “very disappointed about the blunt and dismissive style” in which the letter was written to a “respected and valued rabbi” because similar things had been said about Liberman in the past as well, “and even attributed to you, taking your own words out of context.”

Liberman had written to Levenstein a letter containing an ultimatum, demanding he resign as head of the paramilitary academy he runs in the Jewish community of Eli. He threatened to revoke recognition of the academy as a paramilitary institution, along with the yeshiva associated with the academy, if Levenstein didn’t resign.

“Besides a public apology, it would behoove a rabbi and leader to appear before the bereaved parents who lost all that is dear to them and apologize for what you said, and especially for the insulting tone which implied their Jewishness is in question,” the defense minister wrote.

Liberman wrote in his letter about the female soldiers who have fallen in the line of duty in recent years, among them Border Guard Police officer Hadar Cohen hy’d (May G-d avenge her blood), who was murdered by Arab terrorists in Jerusalem. He also wrote about flight engineer Keren Tendler, hy’d, who fell in battle during the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.
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