Editorial

The Rabbi Unfit for Service in Israel

Last summer Rabbi Yigal Levinstein slammed the military for the tolerance it demonstrates toward the gay community, whose members he called 'perverts.' Last week he vilified the recruitment of young Orthodox Jewish women.

Premilitary academy head Yigal Levinstein at a conference in Jerusalem in July 2016.
YouTube

Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, the head of the Bnei David pre-military academy in Eli, has once again criticized the army for making it possible for Israelis from a variety of communities to serve on an equal basis.

Last summer Levinstein slammed the military for the tolerance it demonstrates toward the gay community, whose members he called “perverts.”

Last week he vilified the recruitment of young Orthodox Jewish women. “They’ve driven our girls crazy,” he said, in a lecture to students of the Otzem pre-military academy. “They draft them into the army. They go in Jewish but they aren’t Jewish when they come out Their whole value system becomes confused, their priorities: home, career. They’ll make them all crazy; we mustn’t agree to this.”

 After Levinstein’s remarks last summer, the army banned him from addressing soldiers. While he came in for criticism from members of the religious Zionist community, 300 rabbis from the stream signed an open letter in support of him. More important, Levinstein is still one of the heads of a pre-military academy that is recognized by the Defense Ministry, and he continues to lecture to full halls of religious youth, who happily absorb his teachings, as evidenced by the approving murmurs heard on the video of the lecture.

Levinstein’s arrogant remarks were accompanied this time by chauvinist jokes. “In Bamahane, that’s the army magazine, for 10 years I’ve been seeing only pictures of girls ... and they’re all in camouflage paint,” he said. “Someone said to me, ‘Don’t worry, they’re practicing applying makeup for their wedding.’ I don’t know who’ll marry her. She’ll tell her children stories at night about battle history, ‘Wow, we lay in ambush, we threw grenades.’ The kid will make her nervous.”

One of Levinstein’s remarks – “Since the army is drafting our religious girls” – exemplifies his viewpoint. The rabbi sees religious women as a proprietary pool that belongs to religious men (“our”), while the women themselves have no choice. (The army is drafting them; they don’t enlist of their own free will.) Levinstein would surely be disappointed to learn that every year there’s a 10 percent rise in the rate of military enlistment by religious women, nine percent of whom serve in combat and combat-support units. This is a welcome trend, since the military can be a springboard to higher education and a career, and is a melting pot for Israel’s divided society.

Twenty-eight pre-military academy heads condemned Levinstein’s remarks on Wednesday. But that is not sufficient. An individual who holds such chauvinistic views cannot be part of a system that prepares thousands of religious youths for military service. Nor is it enough not to invite him to address soldiers; Levinstein must also be prohibited from addressing candidates for military service.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.