Defense Ministry Summons Anti-gay Rabbi Who Criticized Israeli Army

Rabbi Yigal Levinstein has said the military is too careful about harming civilians, and has called gay people 'perverts.'

Yair Ettinger
Gili Cohen
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Rabbi Eli Sadan, left, speaking with Rabbi Yigal Levinstein and IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot, 2016.
Rabbi Eli Sadan, left, speaking with Rabbi Yigal Levinstein and IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot, 2016. Credit: Lior Shtull / Bnei David military academy
Yair Ettinger
Gili Cohen

Defense Ministry Director General Udi Adam held a meeting Thursday with the heads of a premilitary religious academy after one of them criticized the army for drafting gays and lesbians and teaching about the LGBT community in officers’ school.

Adam called the remarks of Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, who together with Rabbi Eli Sadan founded and now lead the Bnei David Academy,  unacceptable to the Israel Defense Forces and the defense establishment and asked him to clarify them.

Speaking at a conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday, Levinstein repeatedly referred to gays as “perverts.”

“‘The Spirit of the IDF,’ the army’s ethics code, specifies ‘human dignity’ as the fundamental, supreme moral value. All human beings are of inherent value regardless of race, creed, nationality, gender, status or role,” Adam told the men, according to a Defense Ministry statement.

“There is no doubt that excluding the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community from society contradicts the most fundamental IDF values,” Adam added. 

The meeting took place at the ministry’s Tel Aviv headquarters. 

By Thursday afternoon, around 350 rabbis, mainly from the ultra-Orthodox Zionist stream, had signed a letter supporting Levinstein and criticizing what they called “an attempt to silence Israel’s rabbis.”

Among the signitaries was former Chief Military Rabbi Avichai Rontzki. 

Levinstein has also criticized the army’s efforts to avoid harming civilian noncombatants. In videotaped remarks, he said such a policy “shows a development of delegitimizing combat.”

Sadan, the co-director of the academy, did not sign the letter. A senior officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Haaretz that Sadan’s efforts to clarify Levinstein’s remarks did not satisfy the army.    

The officer was referring to comments by Sadan this week in a meeting with Levinstein and students at the academy.

“Even if we have criticism of certain things in the army, we are not opposed to the army, of course,” Sadan said. “We will continue to fight together for the sake of the country, and when problems arise we will solve them with dialogue, not war.”

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