On Saturday night, channel 2 TV’s Dana Weiss offered the dean of the Eli pre-military preparatory yeshiva, Rabbi Eli Sadan, an opportunity to speak to her largely secular audience, and he claimed that he had been wronged by the media: “I was surprised by the audacity of the distortion of what I had said,” he told her.
Referring to his call to religious soldiers to refuse an order to serve in a mixed-sex combat unit, Rabbi Sadan said that “it’s against the Torah, and the Chief Military Rabbi said so, too.” Rabbi Sadan insisted that mixed-sex service is contrary to halacha, and it is forbidden to compel a soldier to violate the halacha.
“I’m not saying that a woman can’t be a pilot,” he said regarding women’s service, “But I think that giving a woman the profession of killing people is not good for the nation of Israel.”
Rabbi Eli Sadan belongs to a short list of Religious Zionist rabbis who frequently make headlines in Israel by expressing their halachic views on issues such as the military and the relationship between religious and secular Jews in Israel in an honest and unpolished manner that infuriates the media. In his defense, Rabbi Sadan does not spew his views from a public podium – the storms he evokes always begin with a recording of one of his classes which is made public, and, inevitably, the raw style of a teacher speaking to his familiar students does not translate well online and over the airwaves.
“They simply took my class, castrated it, distorted it and tried to connect me with some things I never said,” Rabbi Sadan argued, and claimed that he had never mentioned the exclusion of women in that particular class.
When confronted with the part of his class in which he said that a woman who is brought up to become independent arrives at her wedding “with a defect,” Sadan replied: “The moment you disconnect anything from its context, you can reach the 180-degree opposite meaning.”
According to Sadan, he was only addressing the claim that girls should be educated to become independent from an early age: “The problem is that this sentence puts into the head of a young girl at a young age the notion that family life is a marginal thing, it’s less important,” he said. “The main thing is that she should have the ability to divorce and the ability to support herself without getting married. As a result, the percentage of single mothers has increased by 80% in the last 6 years – why? Because of this message.”
“I’m not against a woman learning a profession and having a career,” he said, adding that he wasn’t troubled by with the criticism he received. In his words, he would be happy if they said about him “that Rabbi Sadan thinks family life is a supreme value and we must educate a girl from the age of 4 that the most sacred thing she has in life is to get married and be happily marriage until age 120 and give birth to children.”
Rabbi Sadan brought the example of his own daughter, who studied medicine—she is a gynecologist—and also gave birth to seven children.
On occasion, Rabbi Sadan attacked his interviewer – once after arguing that equating women and men was “stupid and crazy,” and pointing out scientific revelations regarding the physiological differences between the sexes. When asked if there were masculine and feminine occupations, the rabbi said: “Dana, you’re only fighting me,” telling her, “You are really a man, you’re fighting me instead of listening,” and adding, “You are endowed with characteristics that are usually more typical of a man, and your feminine attributes are less developed.” When she argued back, he said, “You don’t understand anything.”
According to Rabbi Sadan, conservatism is a deep worldview, while liberals destroy society and make people miserable: “Which is why in America and in Europe the birthrate is negative, civilization is disappearing – civilization does not evolving because children are not born, society is being eliminated, I call it collective suicide.”
Rabbi Sadan also defended the validity of “conversion therapy” for homosexuals – although he refused to utter the term, saying it was a rude word, referring to then as “people with a contrary inclination.”
In the end, the mission of Rabbi Sadan and his yeshiva is to prepare young men to serve and command as part of the IDF – and judging by his ideological firmness and positive view of Jewish tradition he must be doing a very good job. In the future, though, he should probably ask his students to leave their cellphones at the door.