The chief rabbi of Safed, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, who is associated with the extreme rightwing faction of the National Religious community, on Wednesday spoke harshly against IDF Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot and called on the prime minister to consider firing him. The attack followed the first appointment of a woman to command an IAF squadron, Eliyahu explained that the IDF is becoming weaker by recent objective indicators and the chief of staff “should wake up,” otherwise “Netanyahu should tell him to go home.”
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, also an admired leader of the National Religious, earlier this week issued a responsa in his Kipa halakhic column saying that while it is a great mitzvah to serve in the army, at the same time it is also a great mitzvah to fulfill the Torah teaching that men and women have to keep their distance greatly.
Noting that temptations are lurking when a religious boy is serving side by side with women soldiers in a mixed unit, and the fact that not every male soldier may qualify for service in men-only combat units, and that Haredi units prefer Haredi soldiers, Rabbi Aviner ruled that for the time being, alas, such boys should not enlist.
Calling service in a mixed IDF unit a “mitzvah gained through transgression” (such as giving stolen money to charity), Rabbi Aviner insisted that he is not advocating a rebellion against the IDF – on the contrary, he said, “we deeply love the IDF, and we will surely enlist, when the problem is fixed.”
Citing Rabbi Aviner’s ruling, Rabbi Eliyahu told an Army Radio interviewer on Wednesday that since “Aviner is known as a man who loves the army and the state and loves the people of Israel – if he has reached the point where he has to make such a statement, it seems that things are really bad.”
“We see a decline in recruitment motivation, and someone has to ring the bell and cry out: Stop!” he said.
Naturally, a slew of politicians took a ride on Rabbis Eliyahu and Aviner’s statements, eager to score points with their supporters.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) called Rabbi Eliyahu’s statement “primitive” and even suggested it “harms state security and the national strength.”
So much for democracy and open debate. How very Putin of him.
Liberman urged the two rabbis to “reconsider their opinions and refrain from similar statements in the future.”
Education Minister and Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett declared: “I totally reject any call not to enlist in the IDF, as well as the brazen call to fire the chief of staff.” Bennett speculated that “these calls stem from the sincere but mistaken anxiety of certain groups who imagine that the IDF had decided to adopt a radical-feminist-liberal agenda at the expense of operational readiness and victory in the war.”
Back in December, the Jerusalem Post reported that despite the Air Force’s encouraging women to enlist, only 48 have completed the pilot school course in more than two decades which have passed since the Supreme Court ruled in favor of plaintiff Alice Miller who in 1995 demanded to be accepted.
“The IAF has therefore decided to take steps to encourage more women to apply for the pilots course, including reserving high-quality positions in operational and technological units for those who don’t complete of the course.”
Right there, at the point where the IAF is using affirmative action in selecting its best recruits – that’s where Maj. Gen. Eizenkot is weakening the IDF. Because, according to IAF stats, out of 600 pilot school applicants who pass the preliminary tests, about two thirds drop out in the first year of the three-year course, and only 30 to 40 of those who remain – about 6% – will graduate. In a realm of such intense selectivity, there is no room for affirmative action – unless one is prepared to accept degraded results.
All of which did not deter the likes of MK Yair Lapid, chairman of Yesh Atid, from calling the two critical rabbis “insolent” for daring to “educate the army,” adding that their criticism is “nonsense,” and, besides, “Anyone who tries to harm this delicate fabric harms the strength of the state.”
Here’s the thing, though, an army is not supposed to be a delicate fabric, nor is it a tool for settling historic grievances. An army is only supposed to kill the enemy and stop it from killing us. And if the weaker sex does not qualify to serve in combat units, the fact that Maj. Gen. Eizenkot et al reduce the requirements, physical and otherwise, makes it a weaker army.
Labor Party Chairman Avi Gabai said that Aviner and Eliahu are “not really rabbis,” and called on government to revoke their pay as city chief rabbis rabbis.
Spoken like a true socialist.: I disagree with everything you have said, sir, but I will fight to the death to take away your paycheck…
Finally, former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, called Eliyahu’s and Aviner’s statements “winds of incitement, hatred and division,” and said he was shocked at the “delusional call to fire the chief of staff.”
Bear in mind, Ya’alon himself was one of very few IDF chiefs of staff whose first three-year term was not renewed, which was tantamount to being fired. So he knows a thing or two about being fired. He also knows a lot about delusion – trying as he is to gather a viable political group he could lead to victory come next elections. But we’re digressing…