Defense Chief Lieberman Cancels Hearing for Rabbi Who Castigated Female Soldiers

Defense minister had demanded Rabbi Yigal Levinstein’s resignation as condition for continuing Eli yeshiva’s IDF links, but dep. AG says he cannot.

Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, center, with former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, right, and former IDF chief rabbi Rafi Peretz
Tomer Appelbaum

The Defense Ministry on Wednesday cancelled the hearing Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman was scheduled to hold Thursday with the heads of the Bnei David institutions in Eli following derogatory remarks a rabbi of the institution made against women who serve in the army.

Ministry Director General Udi Adam informed the head of Bnei David, Rabbi Eli Sadan, of the cancellation. Sadan had been summoned along with his partner, Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, who made the controversial remarks.

Lieberman had demanded Levinstein’s resignation as a condition for the ministry to continue recognizing Bnei David’s yeshiva as a hesder institution, whose students combine Torah study with service in the Israel Defense Forces under special conditions. Bnei David also runs an army preparatory academy (mechina), a one-year program whose graduates then go on to do full military service.

The hearing was canceled based on a legal opinion by Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber, who said dropping the yeshiva from the hesder track was too severe a response compared to the administrative actions taken in other, similar circumstances, and that in any case Lieberman had no authority to hold such a hearing.

The mechina is apparently going to be penalized, however. In his letter to Sadan, Adam wrote, “Without addressing the remarks made by Rabbi Levinstein the defense minister plans to cancel the distinction made today between the Bnei David institutions and the other army preparatory academies with regard the unlimited number of draft deferrals.”

Today, the Defense Ministry sets for every religious mechina a quota of students who can defer their military service for a second year to pursue additional Torah study. Until now, Bnei David’s mechina, the first and oldest mechina, was the only one not subject to a quota.