The appointment of Brig.- Gen. Eyal Karim as chief rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces is official, following a pledge of loyalty ceremony conducted on Sunday at the President’s Residence.
Interpretations of statements Karim made some years ago turned him into the subject of controversy when his appointment was first made public. The statements attributed to him were taken out of context, according to Karim, who said they applied to explanations of religious texts and did not necessarily reflect his personal opinions.In congratulating Karim, President Reuven Rivlin noted that he shared a birthday, the seventh day of the month of Adar, with Moses, who conveyed God’s law to the Children of Israel. Rivlin obviously regarded this connection as symbolic, since Karim’s main duty is to ensure that Jewish law is upheld in the army without the use of coercion.
Underscoring the manner in which Moses linked leadership with Torah wisdom, greatness and heaven with earth, Rivlin told Karim that he was about to undertake the mission of a lifetime: to connect Torah and the IDF, places of study with training bases and the spirit of the IDF with that of the Israeli public in the integration of as many people as possible from diverse national backgrounds.
Rivlin compared the task facing Karim to that which confronted Moses, describing it as no less difficult. Rivlin emphasized some of the crises that had affected the IDF over the past year, including those involving the religious sector, including the refusal by most haredim (ultra-Orthodox) to comply with the requirement for mandatory army or civilian national service. He also mentioned the complex issue of soldiers who are not halachically Jewish, many of whom are engaged in conversion courses through the army that some religious authorities found unacceptable.
Rivlin was pleased that, in his position as chief rabbi, Karim had also become a member of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate, which Rivlin hopes will help to ease some of the problems in relation to the IDF.