Israeli Army's Chief Rabbi: No Man Will Be Forced to Serve With Women in the Army

Rabbi Eyal Karim says every co-ed assignment would be approved by him, adds that 'every combat soldier is a soldier in the wars of God'

IDF Chief Rabbi Eyal Karim, 2016
Sraya Diamant (IDF spokesperson)

Chief Military Brig. Gen. Rabbi Eyal Krim said Sunday that he was promised by IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot that the army would only send soldiers to co-ed units if they were interested in such service, and assignment to these units would only be done with Krim's approval.

Krim said that that like the Medical Corps determined which soldier is fit to serve in the Navy commando unit, so can the chief rabbi decide that a soldier can't enlist to a co-ed battalion because he would not be able to maintain the principles that were important to him. This was said during a speech before young men attending pre-military academy.

Karim said the final call on assignment to co-ed units would be made by the army's personnel directorate, but would be based on the stance of the chief rabbi. 

Addressing the thirteen female fighters who recently completed their Armored Corps training, a first in Israeli military history, he said that "The chief of staff decided to build a tank team of four women, a homogenous team. That is what we're talking about, they're not with the 77th Battalion, storming into Lebanon."

After being asked regarding the harassment of religious officers in the army, the chief rabbi said there was no persecution of religion in the army, the opposite was true. According to him, any young religious man interested in military service can do so now because the system allows him to follow Jewish law as stringently as he wants.

"The army is much stricter on Kosher laws than halakha [Jewish law]," he said, noting that when a group of soldiers ordered a sausage pizza to their outpost on Mt. Hermon, he was notified by their commanders.

He said that in the Golani Brigade's training base morning prayers last up to 50 minutes, longer than those in the yeshivas in Bnei Brak. "He who chooses to be a combat soldier," he concluded, "is also a soldier in the wars of God, not just the wars of Hezbollah and Hamas."

Karim's appointment as chief rabbi of the army in 2016 was met with harsh criticism after several controversial claims he made in 2003 were published. Among others, Karim said a wounded and incapacitated terrorist should be killed and that women cannot testify in court because their "sentimental" nature does not allow it. He also said a homosexual should be treated as a "sick" or "disabled" person. He has since repudiated and apologized for some of these remarks.

Israeli military chose not to respond to Haaretz regarding Karim's statements.

In response to Sunday's publication, the Woman's Lobby in Israel sent a letter to Gadi Eisenkot demanding the immediate dismissal of Rabbi Karim. "Standing in front of a crowd of future soldiers, the chief rabbi chose to demean the roles women perform in the army and to expose his chauvinistic, conservative and outdated stances regarding women," said the letter. "Anyone who speaks like this does not belong in the IDF, or any other political institution."