72% of Israelis say soldiers should obey military not rabbinic orders

The poll results come against the background of controversial comments made by two prominent national-religious rabbis in recent weeks that aroused intense opposition.

August 2, 2016 16:39
3 minute read.
Haredi soldier

Haredi soldier. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

A new poll shows that 72 percent of Jewish Israelis say soldiers should obey military orders over rabbinic orders, while 69% of Jewish Israelis believe that the IDF should have a pluralist values system.

The Israel Democracy Institute poll results come against the background of controversial comments made by two prominent national-religious rabbis in recent weeks – remarks that aroused intense opposition from secular, liberal and pluralist public figures and organizations, as well as from elements within the liberal wing of the national religious community.

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Following the announcement that Rabbi Col. Eyal Karim would become the chief military rabbi at the beginning of July, several troubling comments Karim made on an online question and answer forum were unearthed, including remarks on the question of disobeying orders, and on homosexuals.

Shortly afterwards, Rabbi Yigal Levenstein, head of the pre-military academy in Eli, gave an address at a rabbinical conference where he denounced pluralist values within the IDF, referred to gays as perverts, and described Reform Judaism as a branch of Christianity.

In the IDI’s poll, conducted by telephone from July 25 to July 27, respondents were asked several questions pertaining to issues of religiosity and pluralism in the IDF.

On the issue of refusing orders, respondents were asked what a religious soldier should do if there is a contradiction between a military army order and a rabbinic ruling.

Some 72% said the soldier should obey the military order, 12.4% said the rabbinic ruling, with the remainder either unsure, declined to answer, or said each soldier should decide according to his conscience.

Respondents were also asked their opinion on whether the IDF should accept pluralist values.

Just under 69% of Jewish Israelis said it was good, while 23% said it was not good, and 8.1% declined to answer.

When responses to this question were examined by the level of religiosity of the respondent, it was found that a majority of all of those surveyed, apart from haredim, said that the army should be a pluralistic and open majority.

The level of support declined however for more religious population groups: 81% of secular respondents, 76% of non-religious-traditional, 57% of religious respondents, and 52% of religious traditional say that the army should have pluralist values. Only 29% of haredim said they believed the army should have a pluralistic approach.

And asked whether they agreed with Levenstein’s claim that the IDF’s values in recent years have grown more pluralistic and away from the values of religious-Zionist soldiers and officers, 33% of Jewish Israelis agreed that this difference in values now exists, while 52% disagreed.

Respondents were also asked if they felt that the values of the IDF’s senior command are close to or distant from the framework of values of the general Israeli public.

Just under 49% answered very close or moderately close, 37% said these respective values frameworks were moderately or very distant, while 14% were unsure.

A similar pattern of responses was found regarding the closeness between the IDF senior command’s value system and that of the political leadership.

Profs. Ephraim Yaar and Tamar Hermann, who worked on the poll, said this indicates that at least one-third of the Jewish public does not currently see the values of the army as harmonious with those of the general public or of the political leadership.

Moreover, segmentation by political camps showed that of those who identify with the political center, a majority (59%) viewed the IDF senior command’s value system and the general public’s as close to each other.

On the left and the moderate left, about half held that perception, and on the moderate right, 54%.

However, among those who defined themselves as on the right, only 38% regarded the two value systems as close to each other; and of those on the “hard right,” about half (49%) do not see a closeness between the IDF senior command’s values and those of the general public.

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