IDF chief standing by his choice for army’s top rabbi, despite controversial statements

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israeli military is sticking by its choice for chief rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces, despite another controversial statement that came to light Wednesday.

Col. Eyal Karim, who was tapped Monday for the post, said several years ago on a religious website that soldiers should disobey orders if they contradict Jewish law, Ynet reported. Statements that had emerged previously from the Kipa site included the apparent justification of rape of non-Jewish women during wartime.

On Wednesday, the IDF’s chief of staff, Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, said after meeting with Karim that he would continue to support his nominee.

“Col. Karim made clarifications during the conversation on all the matters that have come up in recent days, and he clarified beyond any doubt that he and all IDF soldiers are completely subject to IDF orders and the IDF Code of Ethics,” Eisenkot said in a statement released by his office, Ynet reported.

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The statement continued: “The rabbi promised that he personally and the rabbinate headed by him will respect every single person, regardless of religion, sex and sexual preference, and because he sees the IDF as an army of the people absorbing of its recruits, no matter who they are. The chief of staff spoke with Col. Karim about the chief rabbinate’s tasks and how he envisages the rabbinate under his command, and he felt that he and the rabbi see eye to eye on these issues.”

Karim, 59, had also said on Kipa that women should not be conscripted, nor should they sing at IDF events.

On Wednesday evening, Karim released a letter to Israeli soldiers that read: “It is inconceivable that any soldier or commander would act contrary to orders.”

According to Ynet, the letter also said: “I understand the diversity and variety that exists amongst IDF soldiers and the important contribution that every soldier makes without regard to their sexual orientation. We will continue being everybody’s rabbinate.”

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