Israeli Supreme Court suspends appointment of chief military rabbi over controversial comments


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Supreme Court suspended the appointment of the new chief rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces over comments that appeared to justify the rape of women in wartime, among other controversial statements.

The court’s ruling on Monday, in response to a petition filed by the left-wing Meretz Party, came two days before the scheduled induction ceremony for Col. Eyal Karim.

The temporary injunction requires Karim to file a deposition clarifying his current positions on various issues, including the rape of non-Jewish women during wartime and the conditions under which soldiers can refuse orders.

Karim was named IDF chief rabbi in July. He reportedly has been training under the current IDF chief rabbi since he was nominated.

The comments in question were published over a decade ago on the religious news website Kipa and came to light in 2012. Responding to a readers’s question, Karim said that the Torah permits intercourse with a non-Jewish woman during wartime under certain conditions. Karim also said women should not be conscripted due to concerns over modesty and said that under Jewish law female singers should not perform at military events.

Karim has said that his statements about wartime rape were strictly theoretical and dealt with a specific biblical passage. At the time of his appointment, he told the IDF Personnel Directorate, according to Ynet: “There is no license in times of peace or war to sexually assault women.”  He also said that he supported and believed that women could serve in the military.  He pointed out that he served on the committee that established the protocol that requires soldiers to be present at events where women sing. He said he has ordered soldiers present at such events not to leave.

The Tzohar Rabbinical organization said in a statement that it opposes the Supreme Court’s decision to hold up the appointment.

“The role of a rabbi in Israel is to adjudicate based on his insights and knowledge of Torah matters,” the group said in a statement Monday. “The decision of who to appoint as IDF Chief Rabbi should not be based on where he lives or his personal opinions. In our judgment, it would be prudent for the Supreme Court to review any intent to nullify his appointment.”

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