Ex-IDF Top Rabbi: Publishing Discriminatory Jewish Ruling Was Blunder

Not every principle of Jewish religious law is of interest to the public, says Brig. Gen. (res.) Avichai Ronsky in relation to a new ruling according to which giving non-Jews equal rights in Israel contravenes the Torah.

It was a "blunder" to publish the army rabbinate's ruling that giving non-Jews equal rights in the state contravenes Torah, and that mezuzahs should be put up on doors in army bases even if not all the soldiers are Jewish, said the former chief rabbi of the army in an interview with Army Radio on Wednesday.

The ruling appeared in a book distributed among Israeli soldiers, which had been endorsed by the current chief rabbi of the IDF, Brig. Gen. Rabbi Rafi Peretz.

Brigadier General (res.) Avichai Ronsky, former chief rabbi of the Israel Defense forces, was referring to a report in Haaretz about a book of Jewish law endorsed by the IDF rabbinate. He had asked his friends in the IDF rabbinate to send him the book, said Ronsky.

One ruling on Jewish law in the book, “Laws of the Mezuzah,” states: “The idea that views non-Jews as having equal rights in the state goes against the opinion of the Torah, and no representative of the state is authorized to act against the will of the Torah.”

Among other things the book deals with questions about mezuzahs (which are fixed to doorposts by Jews as a sign of faith) on army bases.

"The question of whether a mezuzah must be installed on the door of a dormitory where both Jews and Gentiles dwell, under Jewish law, is of no interest to the general public," Ronsky said. "This is only one of several opinions among rabbinical authorities. Its appearance in an army publication is a blunder. In the Jewish nation’s beit midrash (academy for Jewish learning), there are many rabbis who dispute that position. Our sages have stated, ‘Rabbinical scholars, be careful what you say.’"

According to Ronsky, the citations presented in Haaretz concerning the book are merely “footnotes.” He continues, “Apparently, there is a rabbinical student at Haaretz who deliberately looks for such things.”

It bears mention that the statements do not appear as footnotes but rather in the body of the text.

In an interview to the right-leaning English-language website, Israel National News - better known in Israel as Arutz Sheva - Ronsky added that “the intention of this newspaper [Haaretz] is to turn Israel into a state of all its citizens."

Haaretz aims "to prevent Israel from being a Jewish state," according to Ronsky. "It will go to any lengths and use anything to further its goal.”

Ronsky said he believes that principles in Jewish religious law such as those discussed in the book should remain in the beit midrash because it is difficult to explain them to the general public.

Regarding the ruling that a woman should not install a mezuzah in a public area, Ronsky noted, “This is the accepted practice. If a decision to the contrary is made, that would present no problems.”

Israeli politicians also reacted to the Haaretz report: MK Zahava Gal-On, head of the Meretz party, called on Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to dismiss the IDF’s current chief rabbi, Brig. Gen. Peretz. “According to the report," she said, "the IDF Rabbinate considers itself bound not by the laws of the State of Israel but rather by Jewish religious law. Apparently, the Torah’s view is gradually beginning to resemble racial theory.”

Gal-On added that this “scandalous rabbinical ruling is no longer a problem of an audacious digression from authority but is rather an attempt to impose upon the IDF norms of humiliation and institutionalized discrimination against non-Jewish soldiers. It is the responsibility of the new defense minister not only to immediately nullify these embarrassing guidelines but also to dismiss the senior officials of the IDF Rabbinate who published them.”