IDF tank exercise in the Golan Heights, near the cease-fire line between Israel and Syria .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Military Rabbinate looks set to lose 25 percent of its officer positions as part of the systematic budget cuts within the IDF.
The cuts are being made to staff positions and not to combat units and are part of a broad review by the IDF of its spending. That review identified that the number of officers in the Military Rabbinate has increased disproportionately relative to the number of enlisted conscripts.
Personnel from the IDF rabbinate are present in every army unit and military base and provide religious services such as kashrut supervision, prayer services and fulfill other functions.
The chief rabbi of the Military Rabbinate deals with religious issues arising within the army and during times of war, while the Military Rabbinate is also responsible for identifying slain soldiers and for administering military burials.
It also provides educational services to instill Jewish awareness and values among soldiers. Its involvement in that responsibility has led to controversy and disputes with the IDF Education Corps.
Addressing the slated cuts on Tuesday, Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan said that he still hoped to mitigate the numbers of officer positions which will be dispensed with.
“I met this morning with Defense Minister [Moshe Ya’alon]. Final decisions have yet to be made and the minister recognizes that the IDF rabbinate is an important and essential part of the army,” Ben-Dahan said.
The deputy minister in particular noted that given the Military Rabbinate’s role in supervising the kashrut of kitchens throughout the army, and the ongoing task of absorbing haredi men into the IDF, ensuring adequate manpower within the Chaplaincy Corps was critical for absorbing ultra-Orthodox recruits.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Ben-Dahan said that there were “redlines which cannot be crossed, in terms of the staffing requirements for the Military Rabbinate and said that it was unreasonable to make such drastic cuts if other non-combat branches of the IDF are not subject to the same level of reductions.
The slated reduction in rabbinate officers comes at a time when other cuts have all but shut down the army’s rabbinate’s conversion program.
The cuts – separate from the broader cost-cutting program affecting officer numbers – are the result of a battle between the IDF and the Treasury that has yet to be solved.
Ben-Dahan said that he had spoken with a representative of the Treasury on Tuesday, and said that money for the program would be transferred and that “no one intends to close Netiv which is a program with a broad consensus as to its importance for the army and the state.”
He said that the funds would be included in the budget scheduled for approval in November but that he hoped they would be transferred sooner than this date.
On Tuesday, Religious Services Minister David Azoulay (Shas) met with soldiers currently on the Netiv IDF conversion course while on a tour of the Etzion Bloc in the West Bank.
Speaking to the soldiers, Azoulay said that Netiv was “the correct and recognized path for conversion,” as opposed to other proposals, a reference to the newly established independent conversion courts by several national religious rabbis, which the minister said “have no place” in Israel.
During his tour, Azoulay visited the site of a new mikve in the Alon Shvut settlement, as well as the Gush Etzion junction outside of Alon Shvut, the scene of several terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and the spot from which Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah were abducted last summer before they were murdered.