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(photo credit: Knesset channel)
In an apparent effort to bridge the gap between the IDF and the Right, IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz decided Monday to appoint Rabbi Avichai Ronsky - from the settlement of Itamar - to the post of IDF chief rabbi.
Ronsky, 54, is a colonel in the reserves and will receive the rank of brigadier general after taking up the post this summer. He grew up in a secular home in Haifa and commanded the Shaked reconnaissance unit that fought in the Yom Kippur War.
Ronsky later embraced Orthodox Judaism and enrolled at Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook's Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem. In 1984 he and his wife Ronit helped establish Itamar, a settlement near Nablus. He served as rabbi of the settlement and taught for several years at Ateret Kohanim, headed by Rabbi Shlomo Aviner. Today he is the head of a pre-military academy in Itamar.
Ronsky, who will replace the current IDF Chief Rabbi Brig.-Gen. Yisrael Weiss, will face several major challenges upon taking up the post, including the issue of mixed secular and religious combat units as well as the fate of the Sultan Yakoub MIAs.
Peace Now slammed the appointment, claiming that Ronsky lived in an illegal outpost near Itamar.
"The appointment of a radical settler who lives in an illegal outpost undermines the rule of law in this country," the organization said in a statement. "Someone with his views should not have a place within the military."
Like Aviner, Ronsky strongly opposed insubordination during this past summer's disengagement from the Gaza Strip and Northern Samaria, warning it could endanger soldiers' lives. With his combination of strong combat background and yeshiva training, Ronsky specialized in halachic responsa regarding army issues. He has published these responsa in a series of books called K'Chitzim B'Yad Hagibor [Like Arrows in the Hand of a Hero].
He is considered to have a lenient halachic stand, giving much weight to the importance of military maneuvers even in cases of Shabbat desecration or the postponement of prayer.
In a controversial published correspondence between Ronsky and Yoskeh Achituv, a leading educator and ideologue of the Religious Kibbutz Movement, Ronsky argued that halacha took precedence over secular morality, including the IDF code of ethics. Based on this premise he directed soldiers to refrain from treating fatally wounded enemy soldiers if treatment involved the desecration of the Shabbat. This was on condition that it would not become known that treatment was withheld.
Modern rabbis permit Shabbat desecration to rescue a gentile's life out of fear that if Jews refrain from saving gentiles, gentiles will stop saving Jews. Ronsky and other rabbis understand this to mean that when possible it is preferable to evade saving a gentile.
In contrast, Achituv said it was irresponsible of Ronsky to direct young soldiers to withhold medical treatment from a gentile. Achituv argued that it was impossible to know when the refraining of treatment would become known. Achituv also argued that secular morality carried halachic weight.
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