Rabbi Elyakim Levanon - Tomer Appelbaum
Rabbi Elyakim Levanon has called for "'rabbi kings’ who will constitute the real government of the Jewish people.” Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
Text size

Israel Defense Forces soldiers should choose death before they remain at army events which include women's singing, a top settler religious leader said in an interview on Thursday.

The comment made by Elyakim Levanon, the rabbi of the West Bank settlement of Elon Moreh, came after earlier this week, 19 reserve major generals sent a letter to Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, imploring them not to allow harm to come to women's service in the army as a result of religious soldiers' demands.

The reserve officers indicated that their appeal comes in response to a series of recent events, including the boycotting of military ceremonies by religious cadets due to women singing.

The petitioners warned in their letter about harm caused to the motivation of women to serve in the army, as well as to what they termed damage to "the fundamental values of Israeli society."

However, in a radio interview on Thursday, Rabbi Levanon criticized a possible ruling that would forbid religious soldiers from leaving events over women's singing, saying that IDF soldier should choose death before complying with such an order.

"[The IDF] is bringing close the day in which rabbis will have to say to soldiers 'you have to leave those events even if there's a firing squad outside, and you'll be shot to death," Levanin said.

The Elon Moreh rabbi said he hoped that there will be "some wise people who will thwart this horrible move, and if not we'll have no other choice," adding that he would "recommend anyone who asked me against joining the army."

Women's singing has been but one example of rising tensions between IDF top brass and religious leaders, after last month, following orders from IDF rabbis, female soldiers were asked to leave the central event and had to celebrate in a separate area during the traditional dancing that marks the end of the Simhat Torah holiday.