JERUSALEM (JTA) — The rabbinic head of a religious Zionist pre-military yeshiva in the West Bank who called homosexuals “perverts” sent a letter clarifying his statements to the Defense Ministry but did not retract them or apologize.
Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, who runs the Bnei David academy in the Eli settlement, wrote to the ministry’s director, Udi Adam, that what he was saying in his speech to a conference of rabbis and educators from the National Religious sector was that the army should stay out of disputes in general society.
“I claimed, and I still claim, that the proper place for these disputes is in civil society and not in the army, which is precious to us all,” he wrote this week.
“I have dedicated all my life to strengthening the army, in trust and dialogue. This is the path I believe in, and in this spirit I will continue to educate my students.”
Levinstein met last week with Adam after a video of his controversial statements from the conference was posted on the haredi Orthodox Hebrew-language website Kipa. The conference, titled “Zion and Jerusalem,” was convened to deal with the perceived Reform movement influence on Israeli society.
“There’s an insane movement here whose members have lost the normalcy of life,” he said at the conference, which reportedly attracted some 700 rabbis and educators. “This group makes the country mad and has now penetrated the IDF in full force – and no one dares open their mouth and speak out against it.
“At Bahad 1, there are lectures by perverts,” Levinstein said, referring to the main training base for Israeli army officers, with perverts meaning homosexuals.
He added: “Under the framework of pluralism, soldiers and officers are taught to refer to [LGBT people] as ‘proud,’ but I don’t dare call them that … ‘perverts’ is what I call them.”
In his letter, Levinstein said everyone should serve in the Israel Defense Forces.
“Everyone has a place in the army, no matter what their background, worldview or personal tendencies,” Levinstein wrote, according to Ynet.