IDF chaplain to be full member of rabbinate council

Bill’s sponsors agreed that in order to take the council seat, chief chaplain must be granted authority to serve as municipal rabbi.

March 29, 2011 23:12
1 minute read.
MK David Azoulay

MK David Azoulay 58. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

The IDF’s chief chaplain will now serve as an active member of the Chief Rabbinate Council, MKs ruled Tuesday by approving into law a bill sponsored by a coalition of religious and secular MKs.

In a vote of 10-1, the Knesset easily approved the law, which had met obstacles in earlier committee hearings after MKs discovered that, technically, the IDF’s top religious officer did not have to undergo any kind of official ordination.

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In response to concerns voiced by MKs that the bill would allow a non-Jewish or non-Orthodox clergy member to gain a permanent seat on the Chief Rabbinate Council, the bill’s sponsors agreed that in order to take the council seat, the chief chaplain must first be granted the authority to serve as a municipal rabbi.

Thus, while the defense minister and the IDF’s chief of General Staff still technically have the unlimited authority to appoint the IDF chief chaplain, the officer will be included on the rabbinic council only if he meets the council’s qualifications.

The IDF’s chief chaplain is chosen by the chief of General Staff, and his appointment is approved by the defense minister. The process is always coordinated with the Chief Rabbinate, and the chief chaplains have always been Orthodox.

“The IDF chief rabbi has a great influence on religious services, not just for the army but for the state as a whole,” said Interior Committee Chairman David Azoulay (Shas), explaining the importance of the bill. Bill cosponsor Uri Ariel (National Union) noted that during a time of war the top chaplain has pastoral responsibility for up to one million people and thus has impact on almost every household in Israel.

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