The booklets distributed by the Israel Defense Forces rabbinate during the combat in Gaza, which Amos Harel wrote about in Haaretz yesterday ("IDF rabbi told troops fighting in Gaza: We must not cede a single inch of Israel), and the "Jewish Awareness" publications distributed by IDF Chief Rabbi Avichai Rontzki, prove once again that the rabbi is giving his position a new and alarming interpretation.
From the start it was a mistake to appoint Rontzki, an extremist hozer b'tshuva (newly religious person), who often made harsh comments about secular people, particularly those in the IDF. Like every newly religious person, who has to prove that he is more devout than the Pope, he constantly flatters his mentors, the most extremist rabbis in the settlement community.
The result is an uncontrollable escalation. Rontzki has preached cliched nonsense, permeated with disgust and disdain for anyone who is not religious and does not believe in Greater Israel for the most racist Hardal (ultra-Orthodox religious Zionist) reasons. He has interfered in education officers' work and ordered them to disseminate extremist views. Now he has breached what remained of his position's boundaries and has really begun to go wild.
Rontzki distributes sermons written by Rabbi Shlomo Aviner that preach, in the name of ostensibly religious values, the killing of civilians. He distributes sermons written by his students, who propose a belligerent interpretation of Operation Cast Lead that opposes all the combat values formulated in the IDF throughout the generations.
In such an atmosphere, it is no wonder that extreme right-wing organizations are also smuggling into IDF bases sermons by Yitzhak Ginsburg, the rabbi of the yeshiva at Joseph's Tomb. Ginsburg wrote the book "Baruch Hagever," which praises the massacre by Baruch Goldstein against Arabs in the Cave of the Patriarchs in 1994, and he is considered the spiritual mentor of the most violent and extremist settlers. Thus, under the aegis of the army's chief rabbi, IDF soldiers are being exposed to chauvinist and racist incitement, which is illegal.
Rontzki told his people that their job is not "to distribute wine and challah for Shabbat" but to "fill [the soldiers] with yiddishkeit and a fighting spirit." That is a misunderstanding at best and a deliberate and dangerous distortion at worst. The time has come for the chief of staff and defense minister, who have maintained silence on his unbridled behavior, to finally get rid of him. They would then do well to investigate how the IDF rabbinate, whose job is to provide proper conditions for religious soldiers, has turned into an instrument of divine punishment. The IDF should make do with kashrut supervisors and manage without a rabbi from now on.