Chief IDF rabbi: Religious are to blame for IDF crisis
Peretz slams religious community for agitating stressful situation with army, as Rabbi Melamed identifies with haredim draft dodgers. 'Soldiers may have to go to jail to follow halacha,' he says
Kobi Nachshoni • Ynet
Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, head of the Har Bracha Yeshiva, attacked the IDF and its chief, Benny Gantz, on Monday, saying he identifies with haredim draft dodgers.
Melamed said that despite his disagreeing with those who do not recognize military service as a mitzvah, "It's hard to argue with the haredi stance, when, on occasion, a soldier may have to go to jail in order to follow the halacha laws," he said.
"Religious soldiers can't follow the halacha laws properly in the army. They are forced to change their way of life. It's a problem for a God-fearing man to serve in the IDF today. They tell him that commands come before his conscience," the rabbi said.
In response, Chief IDF Rabbi Rafi Peretz blamed the religious community for agitating the crisis surrounding women's singing in the army.
He remarked: "Our public has turned this into an issue," causing the IDF to get dragged into the mix. According to Peretz, the spiritual conditions of religious and haredi soldiers in the army are extremely good and only improving.
Both rabbis participated in the Jerusalem Conference on Monday, sponsored by Besheva Magazine.
'IDF chief isn't an educator'
Rabbi Melamed also voiced his opinion against IDF heads who, he believes, try to promote liberal values and take a stand on controversial issues. "The IDF chief isn't a puritan or an educator. He should stick to his profession and not to the exclusion of women… The IDF doesn't understand its function as Israel's defense force. That's his only job," he commented.
Chief IDF rabbi fought back saying: "The IDF has always viewed its commanders as educators. The IDF chief deals with educational and ideological issues and sees it as an integral part of him being the military chief."
"The IDF is open to all – even to haredim," he added.
Peretz clarified he is not at ease regarding the rate of religious soldiers in the army in relation to the population. "We're doomed if the army will not be the army of the people but the 'army of,'" he said.
He also objected to those calling to support the draft dodging, saying: "Many soldiers protect us despite not believing that we should be in one ounce of the places they are at, and they do it devotedly and lovingly."
Here is the Ha'aretz report:
IDF chief rabi blasts religious groups for waging ideological war on army
IDF Chief Rabbi Rafi Peretz defends new IDF orders obliging religious soldiers to take part in official ceremonies, even if they consist of women singing.
By Yair Ettinger • Ha’aretz
IDF Chief Rabbi Rafi Peretz Monday accused religious figures of trying to subdue the Israel Defense Forces over ideological issues, turning recent flash points such as women's singing at army events into an "arm-wrestling competition."
"The only time I ever saw the army strongly object [to religious demands] was when people from our [religious] public decided to turn women's singing into an arm-wrestling competition," Peretz said, at a panel discussion in Jerusalem on religious soldiers and the IDF, organized by the newspaper Besheva.
Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, head of the West Bank Har Bracha yeshiva, said at the conference he blamed Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz and IDF officers for the clash between the IDF and the religious establishment. He said Gantz was neither a man of morality nor an educator, so should leave ideological issues out of the army.
Speaking to an audience consisting mainly of settlers, Peretz defended the new IDF orders obliging religious soldiers to take part in official ceremonies, even if they consist of women singing. The orders, which Peretz had participated in drafting, exempt these soldiers from attending unofficial events, intended mostly for entertainment.
Melamed, who has been castigating Peretz for weeks over his approach to religion in the IDF and even called for his resignation, said that while he supports military service for religious men, "if there's a halakhic [Jewish religious law] problem, they must refuse [to obey orders]."
"You have no idea how far this kind of talk could lead us," Peretz said, referring to threats of religious soldiers' insubordination in the army.
"We are in a very delicate situation. Many soldiers who guard many of the people in this room night and day do so although they don't believe in being there [in the territories]," he said. "They do it devotedly and with love, because they understand we have something in common above the differences," Peretz said.
Melamed believed it was "very important to preserve the army as an army, for the purpose of being an army. The IDF shouldn't educate, either to feminism or liberalism, in contrast to the chief of staff and head of personnel directorate's statements. They preach that the army shouldn't exclude women. Any saying of this kind is out of place. The chief of staff is not a man of morals or an educator. He should focus on what he does best and leave ideological matters out of the army.
"The main culprit is the chief of staff and officers in general," Melamed said.
"I hope Rabbi Peretz will represent us as the chief of staff's adviser on religious affairs and tells him how many people decide not to go to the army following [what he said].
"When the chief of staff and other officers punish someone for saying the halakha is above the [military] orders, they don't understand they're actually saying every religious soldier has a problem going to the army, because only religious people are bound by the halakha," Melamed said.