Mofaz Appoints Settler Rabbi as New Military Chaplain

The appointment of Colonel Rabbi Avi Ronsky is considered a gesture of reconciliation by the army to settlers.

Amos Harel
Haaretz Correspondent
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Amos Harel
Haaretz Correspondent

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz approved Chief of Staff Dan Halutz's recommendation Monday to appoint Colonel Rabbi Avi Ronsky as head rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces.

Ronsky, 54, was one of the founders of the West Bank settlement of Itamar and currently resides there. He also heads a yeshiva near the West Bank city of Nablus. His appointment is considered a gesture of reconciliation by the army to settlers, after tensions between the two sides were exacerbated during last summer's disengagement.

Ronsky is considered a moderating force who consistently distanced himself from refusal of orders and rightists' attacks on IDF officers.

In 1996, in response to a query by a combat medic called on to treat a wounded Arab militant on the Sabbath, Ronsky wrote a lengthy response, stating that the militant should be treated. Ronsky argued that leaving the militant to die could be publicized, which itself could lead to attacks on Jews around the world. He also wrote that the Shin Bet needed to interrogate the wounded militant. At the time, Ronsky's statement received harsh responses from religious circles.

Ronsky will replace Rabbi Yisrael Weiss, who served as chief IDF rabbi for the past five-and-a-half years.

Labor MK Ophir Pines-Paz appealed Monday to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, requesting that he intervene to delay the appointment of Colonel Rabbi Avi Ronsky as Israel Defense Forces chief rabbi. Pines-Paz maintains that Mofaz's appointment of a new IDF chief rabbi on the eve of elections contradicts directives issued by Mazuz.

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