Choice for Israeli army’s chief rabbi renounces statements on rape

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The choice for chief rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces renounced statements he made a decade ago that appeared to justify rape during wartime.

Col. Eyal Karim, 59, was nominated Monday by the IDF’s chief of staff, Gadi Eisenkot.

On Tuesday, Karim was called for an interview with the IDF Personnel Directorate over statements he made in Hebrew on a religious website. The decade-old column came to light in 2012.

Replying to a reader’s question on the Kipa website he said: “Although intercourse with a female gentile is very grave, it was permitted during wartime (under the conditions it stipulated) out of consideration for the soldiers’ difficulties. And since our concern is the success of the collective in the war, the Torah permitted [soldiers] to satisfy the evil urge under the conditions it stipulated for the sake of the collective’s success.”

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During this week’s meeting Karim said, according to Ynet: “There is no license in times of peace or war to sexually assault women.” He also said that he supported and believed in women serving in the IDF.

The IDF said in response to accusations that Karim condones rape: “Col. Karim asks to clarify that his statement was issued as the answer to a theoretical question and not in any way whatsoever a question of practical Jewish law. Rabbi Karim has never written, said or even thought that and IDF soldier is permitted to sexually assault a woman in war—anyone who interprets his words otherwise is completely mistaken. Rabbi Karim’s moral approach is attested by his years of military service in command, combat, and rabbinical positions in which he displayed complete loyalty to the values and spirit of the IDF, in particular the dignity of the person.”

The rabbi also has said he believes that according to Jewish law, female singers should not perform at IDF events, Ynet reported.

“It’s desirable to create a ceremonial post that respects the views of all those present at the ceremony, and, to that end, to bring a male and not a female singer,” he wrote in 2011 on the Kipa website. “When this would not be possible, due to various reasons, those whose sensitivities would be offended must be excused from attending the ceremony.”

The rabbi on Tuesday pointed out that he was part of the committee that established the protocol that requires soldiers to be present at events where women sing. He said that he has ordered soldiers present at such events to not leave.

The rabbi also said on the site that women should not be conscripted to the army due to the damage to modesty that would be done to the woman and to the IDF, according to Ynet.