Chief rabbi backs right-wing rabbi who called for firing IDF chief
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Chief rabbi backs right-wing rabbi who called for firing IDF chief

Yitzhak Yosef praises Shmuel Eliyahu for his 'steadfast position' in opposition to female combat soldiers

Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef speaks at Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium on April 13, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef speaks at Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium on April 13, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel’s chief Sephardic rabbi on Thursday offered his support to a prominent right-wing rabbi who had called for ousting IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot over the integration of female soldiers in combat units.

According to a Hadashot TV news report, Yitzhak Yosef praised Shmuel Eliyahu in a phone call for his “his steadfast position in fulfilling the Chief Rabbinate’s instruction regarding the matter of female enlistment.”

“Your ancestors, may their memory be blessed, are proud of you in heaven. Don’t be afraid,” said Yosef, an apparent reference to Eliyahu’s father, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, who was chief rabbi of Israel.

Eliyahu, chief rabbi of Safed and a member of the Chief Rabbinate Council, told Army Radio on Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should fire Eisenkot.

“The army has adopted a crazy feminist agenda,” said Eliyahu. “I don’t know what’s gotten into Eisenkot. Cabinet ministers and the prime minister should tell Eisenkot, ‘You have to go packing and go home, you have done too much to lower the motivation to enlist, especially waging war on religious soldiers.’ I call on the prime minister to tell Eisenkot, ‘Go home.’”

Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu poses for a picture at his home in Jerusalem on July 23, 2013. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Later on Wednesday, Netanyahu rejected Eliyahu’s demand, which came a day after the army’s announcement that a woman would command an aviation squad for the first time.

“I am proud we have a first female aviation squadron commander,” said Netanyahu, who was in India on an official state visit. “Not only will I not condemn the chief of staff, I commend him and the Air Force commander. I expect more such appointments.”

The major, whose name could not be published for security reasons and who has been identified only as “Tuli,” is to be promoted to lieutenant colonel and will head a squadron of Israel Air Force transport planes.

On Tuesday, another leading right-wing rabbi, Shlomo Aviner, wrote on an Orthodox news site, Kipa, that it was forbidden to join mixed-gender units, which comprise almost all non-combat units in the IDF, as well as several combat units.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman also denounced the rabbis, explicitly naming them and calling on them to take back their statements.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who heads the national-religious Jewish Home party, denounced the calls for draft evasion.

Bennett apologized on Thursday for calling Eliyahu’s remarks “insolent,” but stood by his opposition to the positions.

 

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