Mossad appoints spy rabbi
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Mossad appoints spy rabbi

Israel's espionage agency takes on an on-site chaplain for growing Orthodox presence in workforce

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Illustrative photo of undercover rabbis in Guy Ritchie's 'Snatch' (screen capture: YouTube)
Illustrative photo of undercover rabbis in Guy Ritchie's 'Snatch' (screen capture: YouTube)

A growing Orthodox workforce has prompted Israel’s spy agency to hire a staff rabbi to provide on-call religious interpretation to Mossad employees in Israel and overseas.

According to a report in Maariv, the Mossad’s on-site rabbinic authority has become a significant figure in the organization and has needed to make critical rulings on Jewish law surrounding espionage operations in recent years.

“There are lots of religious people in the Mossad, and in recent years their numbers have grown,” a source in the intel organization was quoted by the paper saying.

“The issue is not just matters of kashrut” — ritually permissible foods, the source said. “Sometimes, when you’re far from here, questions arise about what’s permissible and what’s forbidden or questions on operational activities which require a Halachic response.” Among the issues raised are those of Sabbath observance and activity in a foreign country.

The spy rabbi replaced the IDF chief rabbi as the primary arbiter on Jewish legal issues for the Mossad, the report said, but didn’t indicate when precisely the change occurred.

The identity of the Mossad chaplain is classified, but Maariv was allowed to publish that he is a former IDF intelligence and military rabbinate officer and that he was appointed to his current position while Brig. Gen. Avichai Rontzki served as the IDF’s chief rabbi between 2006 and 2010.

The rabbi’s halachic rulings are also, presumably, classified, but an Israeli rabbi in 2010 made public his opinion that it is permissible for female agents to have sex with enemy operatives for the sake of national security.

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