Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Saturday he had banned Israel’s chief Sephardic rabbi and two others rabbis from participating in military events, after they spoke out against the integration of female soldiers.
Speaking at an Ashdod event, Liberman said there was “no place” for statements made by Yitzhak Yosef, Shmuel Eliyahu, and Shlomo Aviner.
“Women have always been a part of the security of the Jewish people, from Deborah the prophet…to (World War II paratrooper) Hannah Szenes,” he stated. “The present radicalization is completely unreasonable.”
Liberman said rabbis who are state employees “must represent the state” and would not be allowed at official events until they withdraw their comments.
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 IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot over the integration of female soldiers in combat units.
“The army has adopted a crazy feminist agenda,” Eliyahu said. “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.’”
Chief rabbi Yosef praised Eliyahu for his “his steadfast position in fulfilling the Chief Rabbinate’s instruction regarding the matter of female enlistment.”
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.”
On Tuesday, another leading 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.
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.