Army chief rabbi under fire for extremist dance partner

Rafi Peretz filmed dancing at wedding with rabbi who co-authored book that discusses when it’s okay to kill non-Jews

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter

Then-chief rabbi of the IDF Rafi Peretz is seen on February 23, 2012. (Gershon Elinson/ Flash90/ File)
Then-chief rabbi of the IDF Rafi Peretz is seen on February 23, 2012. (Gershon Elinson/ Flash90/ File)

The Israeli army’s chief rabbi has been called in to clarify why he danced at a wedding, in his IDF uniform, with an extreme right-wing rabbi who co-authored a book discussing when Jewish law permits the killing of non-Jews.

Rafi Peretz was filmed dancing with extreme right-wing settler rabbi Yitzhak Shapiro at a wedding held last week. Footage obtained by Channel 2 News and broadcast on Sunday showed Peretz wearing Shapiro’s hat and Shapiro with Peretz’s IDF beret on his head.

The celebration took place at the Song of Jerusalem events hall, the scene of a December wedding during which dozens of far-right guests were filmed celebrating the Duma firebombing attack that killed three members of a Palestinian family in July.

Shapiro, one of the heads of the Od Yosef Hai (Joseph Still Lives) yeshiva in the radical West Bank settlement of Yitzhar, is regarded as being on the extreme fringe of Israel’s religious society.

The co-author of “Torat Hamelech” (The King’s Torah) with Rabbi Yosef Elitzur-Hershkovitz, he has been investigated in the past for incitement. The book has been rejected by most of the Orthodox establishment.

On Tuesday, Zionist Union lawmaker Omer Bar-Lev called on IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot to take immediate steps against Peretz.

Bar-Lev, a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said that as Peretz was wearing military uniform at the wedding, he was representing the IDF and not acting as a private individual.

“‘Torat Hamelech’ was a “violent and racist book condemned across the political and social spectrum in Israel,” Bar-Lev charged. “The book includes a clear call for violence and open incitement.”

He claimed that by swapping headgear with Shapiro, Peretz had expressed symbolic approval and support, in the name of the army, to “a man who cannot be identified with the values of the IDF.”

He added: “Even though the book’s author has not been brought to criminal trial, there’s an ethical and social consensus that there is no room on the Israeli and Jewish bookshelf for a book like ‘Torat Hamelech.'”

MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin, also of Zionist Union, said on her Twitter account that she had complained to Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who told her the matter was being investigated.

Channel 2 News quoted the band as saying that the hall’s owner asked guests at the beginning of the wedding not to sing a song during which, at the December wedding, revelers waved guns and stabbed a picture of baby Ali Dawabshe, who perished in the Duma firebombing.

The IDF issued a statement Monday saying that Peretz had gone to celebrate with the family of the groom, whose father had served as an army rabbi until recently.

Peretz is no stranger to controversy. In November 2014, he said that Jews were better versed in the Quran than Muslims, prompting the IDF to issue a clarification saying the comments were “taken out of context.”

In April 2013, he came under fire over publication of a book of IDF rabbinic rulings that said non-Jews do not have the same rights as Jewish citizens and that it is undesirable for female officers to perform the religious ceremony of attaching a mezuza to doorposts.

The head of human resources is expected to explain to Peretz that his behavior at last week’s wedding is not becoming for a senior IDF officer, Channel 2 reported.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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