Chief rabbi of Safed, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu’s circle is furious with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who banned him from making appearances in IDF bases, along with Rabbi Aviner and chief Sephardi rabbi, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef.
All three rabbis have been critical of IDF chief of staff Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot for his encouragement of mixed-sex units, which they say is both inappropriate—at least for religious recruits—and weakens the army. Rabbi Eliyahu even called for Eizenkot’s resignation over his policy of affirmative action for female soldiers.
Liberman, who on Saturday morning arrived at the Big shopping center in Ashdod, together with his party members, in solidarity with shop owners who kept their businesses open, in defiance of the new ‘Supermarket Act’ requiring a special permit issued by the Interior Minister.
While he was at it, supporting Shabbat desecrators, Liberman declared a boycott of the knitted yarmulke rabbis, Eliyahu and Aviner, and the chief rabbi.
“This radicalization is clearly unreasonable, it has no place,” the defense minister stated. “The chief rabbi of Israel, and the chief rabbi of Safed, who are both civil servants, must represent the positions of the state and not be against the state,” Liberman continued, clearly oblivious to the fact that he, a government minister, was there to support businessmen who were breaking state law.
Unhindered by things like irony, Liberman continued: “That’s why I view this very seriously – I gave instructions to the army to exclude the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Aviner, and Rabbi Eliyahu from any event within the IDF.”
“It is simply unreasonable to attack the IDF, to speak against enlistment, and then to participate in events in a military setting,” said Liberman, who had just attacked the coalition government of which he is a member.
Rabbi Eliyahu’s office on Saturday night issued a statement saying, “The rabbis encourage their students to join the more elite IDF units. The rabbis call on them not to participate in the mixed-sex field units, where standards are being lowered in order to advance political agendas.”
“Only in dark regimes it is forbidden to criticize the army,” the statement continued. “We live in the State of Israel. The IDF is not the private corporation of Avigdor Liberman, and if he does not apologize and cancel his order, he will have to face legal suits, including regarding his lies.”