“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.” This outrageous saying would cause uproar if it were uttered by some marginal element challenging the sovereignty of the legislative branch and the authority of the government. It is far more aggravating when it is turns out, according to Chaim Levinson’s report yesterday in Haaretz, that it is a ruling by the IDF rabbinate.
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The IDF rabbinate is not authorized to publish halakhic rulings. One wonders how it dares to publish an opinion dealing with the “representative of the state,” meaning the government − superior to the IDF rabbinate’s military commander − and the courts. Who, does it believe, is bound by its rulings? And who authorized officers to present Israel as a state bound by halakha?
Israel defines itself as a Jewish, democratic state. The IDF, in contrast, isn’t democratic, but functions according to a clear hierarchical line of command, which isn’t Jewish, but rather Israeli. Furthermore, these are the Israel Defense Forces, not the Jewish Defense Forces. Non-Jews too serve in the IDF, which is committed to the defense of all Israeli citizens without regard to their religious or ethnic background.
Religious soldiers, too, serve in the IDF. The new government is soon expected to reduce the staggering inequality that allows huge numbers of ultra-Orthodox to evade military service. The religious and Haredi soldiers are due certain consideration of their special needs − less than at present and not at the expense of secular soldiers − and definitely not when they are armed with spiritual ammunition supplied by antidemocratic rabbis.
In recent years, especially during the term of Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, the IDF has found itself involved in controversy due to religious invasions of unrelated spheres. Gantz must quickly put an end to this trend. The IDF rabbinate’s size and influence should be limited. In fact, it should be scraped in its current form and reorganized as a religious services unit, severing the ties between the officers offering these services and the religious and Haredi parties who influence the chief of staff and defense minister’s decisions regarding the IDF chief rabbi.
All religions cling to tradition, but the IDF rabbinate, in itself, is no holy tradition. The source of authority in the IDF must be one: state laws, translated into military orders, not the “opinion of the Torah,” racist rejections of equal rights to “non-Jews” or demands of the state to act only according to the “will of the Torah.”