Israeli Ministers Slam High Court for Delaying Appointment of Controversial Top Army Rabbi

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Religious Services Minister David Azoulay call on High Court to revoke injunction barring Eyal Krim's appointment, issued until he clarifies past contentious remarks.

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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

Two ministers lashed out at Israel's High Court of Justice on Tuesday for delaying Eyal Krim’s appointment as the military’s chief rabbi.

The court issued an injunction barring Krim’s appointment until he submits an affidavit clarifying his stance on several issues, inter alia his views of women and gays. The injunction was based on several controversial statements Krim has made on these issues in the past.

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.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked was asked about the case on Tuesday during a visit to the Zefat Academic College law school. “We’re seeing the Supreme Court intervene in administrative decisions too frequently,” she replied, adding that it should overturn decisions on the grounds that they are unreasonable “only in very extreme cases.”

“The chief of staff appointed Rabbi Krim via the proper process; he held a hearing for him, and the defense minister signed off on the appointment,” Shaked continued. “I don’t think the court should intervene in a case like this. The petition should have been summarily rejected. The chief of staff, who sends soldiers into battle, can also appoint a chief rabbi.”

Later that evening, Religious Services Minister David Azoulay sent a letter to Chief Sephardi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef in which he voiced support for Yosef’s outspoken opposition “to the embarrassing proceedings in which an Israeli rabbi has been put in the defendant’s chair so that he’ll apologize for statements taken from the Torah” and his “effort to prevent the gagging of Israeli rabbis.”

“It’s inconceivable that in Israel, the only Jewish state, rabbis should have to explain and apologize for statements made while explaining the Torah,” Azoulay continued, adding that the court should have summarily rejected the petition.

Azoulay was responding to Yosef’s request to the court earlier in the day to be added as a respondent to the petition against Krim’s appointment. In a press statement, Yosef said, “The Torah of Israel and Israeli rabbis are currently standing trial, and I am obligated by my position as Israel’s chief rabbi to serve as their voice.”

He also assailed the Meretz party, which filed the petition. “The purpose of this petition is to impose censorship on the Torah, censorship such as was imposed during the darkest periods of the Jewish people’s past,” he wrote.

Yosef also asked the court to reject the petition and approve Krim’s appointment.

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