Analysis: You can't please everyone

The next IDF chaplain will have to deal with the tensions between religious zionism and the armed forces.

By MATTHEW WAGNER
February 21, 2006 00:29
1 minute read.
elazar stern noble against tree 298.88

elazar stern noble 298.8. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimkski)

With unilateral territorial pullouts in the offing and the trauma of disengagement and Amona still fresh in the memories of settlers, there was probably never a less propitious time in the nation's history for a religious Zionist to be chief IDF chaplain. Add to this the expected clash between hesder yeshiva heads and the IDF and the result is a near untenable climate.

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Hesder yeshiva heads, such as Rabbi Elyakim Levanon of Eilon Moreh, who was singled out by the IDF for censure for openly supporting insubordination during disengagement, are threatening to break ties with the IDF. Levanon and others oppose OC Manpower Elazar Stern's plans to break up segregated platoons and completely integrate hesder and secular soldiers soldiers. They are also protesting what they see as needless Shabbat desecration and the lack of segregation of men and women. In addition, many religious Zionists are still bitter about what they consider to be the overly harsh punishment of hesder soldiers who heeded their rabbis and refused evacuation orders. These soldiers were initially jailed for as long as a month, kicked out of both hesder and combat units and forced to complete three years of army service instead of 16 months. Perhaps the main challenge facing the incoming chief IDF chaplain is restoring trust between IDF command and religious Zionist soldiers, who are among the most motivated, idealistic and outstanding in the IDF. But before the new chaplain can achieve this goal, he must first prove to religious soldiers his resolve to boldly represent their interests. This goal is surmountable on issues of Shabbat desecration, kosher food and perhaps even the continued separation of men and women and religious from secular. But if and when the next disengagement comes along, the new chaplain is going to have a hard time pleasing both the IDF and religious Zionists.


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