Israeli Court Delays Appointment of Top Army Rabbi Who Implied Rape Permitted in Wartime

In response to Meretz petition, justices demand affidavit clarifying Col. Eyal Krim's past contentious remarks, including calling gays 'sick' and terrorists 'animals.'

Gili Cohen
Sharon Pulwer
Jonathan Lis
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IDF Chief Rabbi Eyal Krim on July 13, 2016 (prior to appointment).
IDF chief rabbi-designate Col. Eyal Krim, on July 13, 2016 (prior to appointment).Credit: IDF Spokesman's Office / Reuters
Gili Cohen
Sharon Pulwer
Jonathan Lis

Israel's High Court of Justice issued an interim order on Monday to delay the appointment of Col. Eyal Krim as the new chief rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces. The court ordered Krim to clarify his positions in light of reports of problematic statements – including on issues concerning women and gays – that he has made in the past.

In response to the court's order, the IDF canceled Wednesday's planned ceremony at which Krim was due to officially replace the current chief rabbi, Brig. Gen. Rafi Peretz.

The High Court's decision was taken at a hearing Monday after a petition was filed by the Meretz party against Krim’s appointment, which was proposed by IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot. During the hearing, the justices criticized a number of statements made years ago by Krim.

As a civilian, over a decade ago, Krim was asked about the biblical verses relating to how a soldier should act during wartime if he sees a beautiful woman behind enemy lines and wants to rape her. At the time, Krim reportedly said, "Although fraternizing with a non-Jewess is a very bad thing, it is allowable in war out of consideration for the difficulties of the fighters."

However, after Krim's decision to return to the IDF in 2013 – which sparked controversy after that and other remarks – he backtracked on that statement, writing on the Kipa website that such behavior vis-a-vis a woman "completely contradicts the army’s values and orders.”

Apparently, Krim also said in the past that it is permitted to kill wounded suicide bombers, that women are not allowed to testify in court because their “sentimental” nature does not allow it, and that the approach to gays should be similar to that of a “sick or handicapped” person. He also reportedly said the New Testament should be burned.

At the hearing Monday, Justice Salim Joubran said Krim’s comments were “shocking, to say the least.” Where in the Torah does it appear that an IDF soldier may rape a non-Jewish woman, asked the justice.

For her part, Supreme Court President Miriam Naor demanded that clarification must now come from Krim himself – “not in letters and not in verbal explanations, but in an affidavit: what was his position then, what is his position now and whether he has retracted it.”

The lawyer representing the government said Eisenkot did not know last summer, after deciding on Krim's appointment, of the contentious nature of comments made when he was a civilian.

A statement by the IDF Spokesman’s Office in July said that Krim and Eisenkot discussed the controversial issues at length. Krim promised Eisenkot that under his leadership, the military rabbinate would respect all people regardless of their religion, race and sexual orientation, and insisted that he “sees the army as the people’s army that accepts all recruits, whoever they might be.”

Krim added that he saw a need for women’s service in the military, said the spokesman's office.

In any event, the chief of staff has stood behind his decision to make Krim chief IDF rabbi, which entails promoting him to the rank of brigadier general.

A senior officer in the IDF’s Manpower Directorate who was asked about Krim said recently that he did not know of most of the things Krim apparently wrote and said, and he was not pleased with them. Nevertheless, the officer said that Krim was “the most appropriate chief rabbi at the present time.”

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