Israeli Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, above, has sparked a row after attacking mixed-gender units in the army, claiming that ‘any healthy male soldier who is in the company of a female soldier on a mission can’t fulfill it properly. For a healthy person, that is man’s nature’.
Speaking on Army Radio a day after Rabbi Shlomo Aviner called on his followers not to enlist in units containing both men and women, even if that meant refusing to serve in the Israel’s Defence Forces, the Safed chief rabbi called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to sack the Israel Defense Forces’ Chief of Staff, Lt Gen Gadi Eisenkot.
Rabbi Aviner is a responsible person. He has thousands of students. All his life, he educated with devotion for the benefit of the people of Israel. Maybe Eisenkot should wake up; maybe the Prime Minister should tell him to go home.
The comments by Aviner, above, who is one of religious Zionism’s most prominent rabbis, were published on the Kipa website earlier this week. In response to a question by a yeshiva student who is about to enlist and has reservations because of mixed genders in the army, the rabbi said:
It’s a great mitzvah to go into the army and at the same time uphold the Torah’s instruction that men and women should keep very far away from one other.
The student continued:
Unfortunately, this is not the reality. Many yeshiva students fail to uphold the prohibition against touching; also with hugging.
The rabbi responded:
If so, one should request a unit where there are no women, such as an elite combat unit or a Haredi unit – a unit of ultra-Orthodox soldiers.
The student persisted, saying this too was impossible. The rabbi then answered:
If that’s the case, then unfortunately, for now, one shouldn’t go to the army. Either a separate unit or don’t enlist for now.
If one receives an immoral order – such as serving alongside women – tell your commander politely that this is not why you joined the army.
Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he strongly rejected:
The blatant intervention of external agencies into army matters – including rabbis, no matter how lofty their status. This is unacceptable and damaging to state security and the state. The IDF is not a feminist or chauvinist army, and all its considerations are operational.
I call on Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu and Rabbi Shlomo Aviner to retract their benighted statements and in future avoid making similar statements that could harm the strength and legitimacy of the IDF.
But, in siding with The Bearded Ones, Bezalel Smotrich of the Habayit Hayehudi party said:
There are professions for men and there are professions for women, this is how Lord Almighty created the world and this is the right way for the world. Everyone that tries to blur these simple distinctions does wrong to himself and to the world.
However, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, also a leading member of the religious-Zionist community, rejected the rabbis’ comments. In a tweet he said:
I totally reject the call to avoid the draft and the brazen call to fire the chief of staff. These calls stem from a sincere but erroneous anxiety felt by several groups that believe the IDF has decided to embrace a feminist-liberal-radical agenda, at the expense of future operations and victory in war.
Last year Rabbi Eliyahu sparked outrage when he suggested that gay people were terrorists. He told Army Radio:
We will not allow Israel to become LGBTistan. There is LGBT terror, which forces the system to do what it views as being against healthy thinking. To say this is sick is an understatement – it’s something that needs to be treated and fixed.