Last week, the citizens of Israel learned that the new chief rabbi of the IDF, Colonel Eyal Karim, is a man who believes that raping women during wartime is okay, but that allowing women to serve as soldiers in Israel’s military isn’t (see: IDF’s chief rabbi-to-be permits raping women in wartime). He also referred to homosexuals as “sick or deformed” (see: More controversial comments by IDF chief rabbi-to-be come to light). I can’t help but asking, how can such a bigoted person be allowed to become the chief rabbi of what is for many Israel’s most respected institution, the Israel Defense Forces?
The answer to this question may lie in the unfortunate fact that Col. Karim isn’t alone in his bigotry. Just days after his comments about women and homosexuals came to light, another rabbi, Yigal Levinstein, the head of a pre-army preparatory yeshiva, referred to homosexuals as “perverts” and condemned the IDF for making efforts to accommodate them (see: Senior rabbi condemns IDF for accommodating LGBT ‘perverts’). The next day, Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, the chief rabbi of Ramat Gan, made comments supporting Levinstein and also accused members of the LGBT community of trying to impose a homosexual lifestyle on children (see: Ramat Gan’s chief rabbi: Gays and lesbians are disabled and predatory). In fact, three hundred rabbis across the country signed a letter in support of Levinstein (see: Hundreds of rabbis support Rabbi Levinstein).
I think I speak for many Israelis when I say that the kind of bigotry espoused by these rabbis has no place in our country. Furthermore, I would argue that any rabbi who currently holds an official position in the country should lose that position for making the kind of hateful remarks that the rabbis mentioned above have made. For its part, the IDF is reconsidering its relationship with Rabbi Levinstein (see: IDF to re-examine professional relationship with anti-gay rabbi) and the Ministry of Defense has condemned the rabbi’s comments. So has education minister Naftali Bennett, himself a religious Zionist like Levinstein (see: Defense ministry, Bennett condemn rabbi who called LGBT community ‘perverts’). But I don’t think words of condemnation should suffice. Rather, I believe that Col. Karim should not be the IDF’s new chief rabbi and that Rabbis Yigal Levinstein and Yaakov Ariel should be removed from their posts immediately.