Israeli Soldiers' Mentor Blasts Allowing Women in Combat

'Women need to be women and men need to be men,' Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, who previously called gays 'deviants' and 'perverts,' tells students.

Rabbi Yigal Levinstein (C) with Rabbi Peretz and General Ashkenazi.
Tomer Appelbaum

Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, one of the founders of the pre-army preparatory course in the West Bank settlement Eli, took the Israel Defense Forces to task this week for its policy of allowing women to serve in combat positions.

“I am not sure that a woman in a tank is exactly what you are looking for,” Levinstein told students sarcastically as part of a class on male-female relationships.

“We believe that women are women and men are men, and maybe it’s worth grabbing a wife before there are no women. Maybe it’s worth marrying now before there are no women. They will all be combat soldiers. Female fighters will show up in camouflage uniforms,” Levinstein said wryly.

A recording of his talk was posted on the website of the pre-army course. In another recording that appeared Thursday on the Walla news website, Levinstein is heard commenting at length on women in the IDF. “Women have a calling in the world. Men also have a calling in the world and each of them needs to fulfill the calling that the Lord expects of them,” he said. “The calling for women is a calling of peace, not war, so war and women are a contradiction.”

“Do we think women need to serve in mixed combat units?” Levinstein asked in the recording. “Is there a goal in life to turn women into combat soldiers, into fighters? Is there a goal and an interest in life for women to be men? Absolutely not. Women need to be women and men need to be men.”

Also Thursday, the State Prosecutor’s Office submitted an affidavit to the High Court of Justice from Rabbi Eyal Krim, whose appointment as chief military rabbi had been held up by the court over controversial remarks attributed to him and prompted a request for a clarification, following a challenge to his appointment by two Meretz Knesset members.

Krim opened his affidavit with a statement that every rabbi, educator and public figure must have the chance to reconsider positions and to acknowledge mistakes. He then went on to state: “I have made a mistake. I have made a mistake in responding briefly and concisely to complicated questions over which Jewish religious law [halakha] has more than one position. And I erred in that sometimes I didn’t word my comments precisely and there have been those who were hurt by them. I have already written and spoken about such harm and I hereby sincerely apologize.”

For his part, in critical comments directed at the army in July, Levinstein said the Education Corps was leading a change in the IDF’s values, which he said was reflected in pluralistic religious education and in recognition of the gay and lesbian community, members of which he termed “deviants” and “perverts” (“sotim” in Hebrew) in a lecture at a conference on how to deal with the influence of the Reform movement on Judaism in Israel.

In an apparent reference to the gay and lesbian community, he spoke of a movement that has “entered the army in force and no one dares say a thing about it,” adding that at the officers’ training base south of Mitzpeh Ramon in the Negev, “there are lectures by perverts.”