Rabbi Col. Eyal Karim (left), nominated to become IDF chief rabbi, sits next to his predecessor, Bri.
(photo credit: DEFENSE MINISTRY/DIANA HANANSHIVILI)
Meretz chairwoman MK Zehava Gal-On, along with party colleagues MKs Michal Rozin and Tamar Zandberg, have called on Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to review the appointment of incoming IDF Chief Rabbi Col. Eyal Karim in light of troubling comments he has made in the past about women, homosexuals and refusing military orders.
The announcement of Karim’s appointment was made earlier this week, but was followed by a series of revelations about controversial comments he made while writing in an Ask the Rabbi column for the Kipa website between 2002 and 2003.
In response to questions posed to him, Karim compared homosexuals to “ill” or “disabled people” and said they should fight against their sexual orientation; that women could not give legal testimony because they are “too sensitive”; opined that a wounded suicide terrorist should be killed; and said that if a military order contradicts Jewish law, it should not be obeyed.
Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said on Wednesday that after meeting with Karim, he was satisfied that the colonel was suitable for the job, although he took exception to the way the rabbi had formulated his comments that he said were not commensurate with the IDF’s values.
“One’s hair bristles at the very thought that a man like this, with such extreme and harmful views, is about to be appointed to such a sensitive post in which he is supposed to guide the moral standards by which IDF soldiers will operate,” said the MKs in their appeal to the attorney-general.
“These severe issues require the position to be taken that Col. Karim is not fitting to serve as IDF chief rabbi.
Therefore his appointment must be canceled immediately.”
Because of the furor that Karim’s past comments have caused, he issued a public letter to all soldiers and commanders on Wednesday saying that all IDF personnel are subject to the authority of the chief of staff and the military hierarchy and that he would welcome and serve all IDF soldiers, regardless of their religion, race or sexual orientation.
The Meretz MKs said, however, that this was insufficient and that Karim should apologize for his views and retract them in order to keep his job.
They said that if this does not happen they will file a petition to the High Court of Justice against his appointment.
Several leading political and rabbinic figures have however defended Karim and strongly backed Eisenkot’s decision to stand by the appointment.
Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan said the chief of staff had made “a courageous decision. There is no doubt that Karim is a most worthy appointment. I am certain that Rabbi Karim as IDF chief rabbi will be able to connect to all IDF soldiers, male and female, across the societal spectrum and will be a figure of leadership and education for them.”
Senior national-religious leader Rabbi Haim Druckman also strongly backed Karim.
Speaking on Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet station, Druckman said that Karim was a perfect choice for IDF chief rabbi given his background as a soldier and commander in an elite combat unit and his status as “a renowned Torah scholar.”
Regarding the issue of refusing orders, Druckman said that no rabbi would say that one can break Jewish law to comply with a military command. He said, however, that soldiers could in no way refuse military orders, but that he believed IDF commanders did not issue orders that contradict Jewish law.
“Every soldier needs to do exactly what the IDF tells him and I am certain that this is what Rabbi Karim thinks,” said Druckman.
Karim also received the support of Chief Rabbi David Lau, who said he had been happy to hear that Eisenkot stands by the appointment, and said that the rabbi is very qualified for the job.
He said that in his discussions with Maj.-Gen. Haggai Topoliansky, head of the IDF Manpower Directorate, he had emphasized that the most important qualification for the job is being “a figure of Torah and Jewish law.”
Lau added that he was saddened by the campaign against Karim. “I do not think that the media and/or other interested parties working to change the character of the IDF should be able to dictate who is the most fit for this important and critical position of IDF chief rabbi, and for certain it is not appropriate to take sentences from words of Torah explanation which were said to understand verses from the Torah and to try and use them to cast aspersions on the character or ability of the rabbi to serve in this position,” wrote the chief rabbi.