uri Ariel 248.88.
(photo credit: Knesset)
Being an ordained rabbi is not officially a prerequisite for being named the
IDF’s chief chaplain, nor it is explicitly stated anywhere that a candidate for
the position must be a Jew, MKs were amazed to learn during a Knesset Internal
Affairs and Environment Committee hearing on Tuesday.
surprising bit of information arose during a discussion on a bill sponsored by
MK Uri Ariel (National Union) that would make the IDF chief chaplain a member of
the Chief Rabbinate Council, the 17-rabbi body composed of senior rabbis
nationwide, which serves primarily as an advisory panel to the two chief rabbis,
who also head the council.
While the committee supported the bill and
approved it for its first reading in the Knesset, committee chairman David
Azoulay (Shas) and other members expressed concern that the bill, as currently
written, could allow a Reform rabbi to be appointed IDF chief chaplain and
effectively become part of the Chief Rabbinate Council.
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.
chief chaplains already have observer status in the Chief Rabbinate Council. The
rationale behind Ariel’s bill is that given the large scope of the
responsibilities pertaining to Jewish law in the army, and the large numbers of
conversions in the IDF, the chief chaplain should become an inherent part of the
Ariel also noted on Tuesday that his initiative had
the approval of both the Chief Rabbinate Council and current Chief Chaplain
Rabbi Brig.-Gen. Rafi Peretz.
The concern over the religious timbre and
qualifications of the chief IDF rabbi was shared by all of the MKs in the room,
who represented Shas, United Torah Judaism, National Union and Kadima, which was
represented by MK Othniel Schneller, who is Orthodox.
The rabbinic courts
legal adviser, Rabbi Shimon Yaakobi, took these concerns to the absurd, when he
told the MKs that technically, not only does the army’s chief chaplain not have
to be an ordained rabbi, but “a Muslim or Christian could even be appointed,
since there are no criteria or prerequisites for the position, besides being the
choice of the defense minister and chief of General Staff.”
wrapped up the meeting by saying that the committee would add an amendment to
Ariel’s bill, under which the chief IDF rabbi must be confirmed as a rabbi by
the Chief Rabbinate Council.