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.
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.
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
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.