Liberman bans chief rabbi from IDF events for blasting joint service

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman banned Rabbis Shlomo Aviner and Shmuel Eliyahu for calling on yeshiva students to not enlist, and for the IDF chief of staff to be fired.

January 20, 2018 20:41
3 minute read.
Liberman bans chief rabbi from IDF events for blasting joint service

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman in Ashdod, January 20, 2018. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Saturday announced that he has banned Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef from IDF ceremonies after he expressed support for Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu’s call to fire the IDF chief of staff for advancing the integration of women into all branches of the army.

Eliyahu made his comments on Wednesday, following a ruling by prominent National Religious leader Rabbi Shlomo Aviner that yeshiva students should not enlist until they can guarantee that they are not placed in a mixed gender unit.

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Yosef called Eliyahu on Thursday to praise him for his “courageous stance in fulfilling the Chief Rabbinate’s instructions on enlisting girls,” and said that Eliyahu’s father, the late chief rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, “is happy with you in Heaven, don’t be afraid and don’t be scared.”

The Chief Rabbinate has firmly opposed the enlistment of women to the army from its inception.

Speaking in Ashdod on Saturday, Liberman said that women have played a part in Israel’s defense and security since the establishment of the state, and denounced the comments of all three rabbis.

“What I heard last week, it is unreasonable and unacceptable that the chief rabbi of Safed attacks the chief of staff and demands that he be fired; that one of the most important rabbis in that section of the National Religious community, like Rabbi Aviner, calls not to serve and not to enlist to the IDF if there are not separate units, when the chief rabbi supports the chief rabbi of Safed,” Liberman said.

“I have given an instruction to the IDF: The chief rabbi, Rabbi Aviner and Rabbi Eliyahu will not take part in IDF events,” he said.

Aviner and Eliyahu are two of the most conservative National Religious leaders fighting the IDF’s new joint service protocol, which was published in 2016 and encourages the integration of women into all branches of the armed services.

Despite this protocol, soldiers are still able to ensure that they do not serve with women in combat units.

Liberman went to Ashdod primarily to demonstrate support for the non-Orthodox sector, which is battling what activists describe as a crack-down on businesses opening on Shabbat in the city over the last two weekends.

Businesses in commercial centers have begun receiving warning notices of impending fines for opening on Shabbat, which activists say is a new development. Even restaurants, which have been allowed to remain open under the status quo, have received such notices.

Liberman described this development as “a direct result of the minimarket law,” which passed earlier this month and allows the interior minister to reject any municipal bylaw allowing businesses to open on Shabbat approved by municipal councils.

Liberman rejected claims that the law will not have a significant effect since it does not make any provisions for increased enforcement against existing laws banning commercial activity.

“Whoever says this is mistaken and is deceiving others. The minimarket law has unfortunate, far-reaching results and has been received by some municipal authorities as an order to go wild.”

Liberman said the law and its accompanying tensions were unnecessary. He described the atmosphere in Ashdod as “dirty,” and expressed hope that the city’s increased enforcement would not spread as doing so would divide Israeli society.

On Saturday evening, more than 2,000 people demonstrated outside the Ashdod Municipality in protest of what they see as increasing stringencies in the city regarding Shabbat in the public domain, as well as against Mayor Yehiel Lasri, whom they blame for capitulating to the demands of local Haredi political parties.

According to activists, even though Haredim only constitute 20% of the city’s population, some 95% of Haredi residents voted in the last municipal elections, compared to 51% of the non-Haredi population.

As a result, Haredi parties hold 10 of the 27 seats on the municipal council – an outsized political influence, activists say, that has swayed Lasri to concede to Haredi demands during election year.

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