JERUSALEM (JTA) — The rabbinic head of a religious Zionist pre-military yeshiva in the West Bank acknowledged that he was wrong to denigrate female soldiers by saying the Israeli army drives them “crazy” and upsets their Jewishness.
Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, who runs the Bnei David academy in the Eli settlement, in a letter to his students and to graduates of the yeshiva said the tone of the remarks he made earlier this month to several hundred students visiting from another West Bank pre-military academy was “inappropriate,” though he also said that some of his comments were taken out of context, The Times of Israel reported.
Levinstein also defended his point, saying “women have been taken hostage by the feminist movement” and that he made his comments to better prepare students for service in the Israeli military.
“I am trying to save the girls from feminist captivity and to fight for their honor as Jewish women and against liberals staining their honor,” he said in the five-page letter sent Monday, according to Haaretz.
Footage of the original remarks was broadcast on Israel’s Channel 2 about a week after it was delivered.
“They draft them. They go in Jewish and they’re not Jewish when they come out — not in terms of genetics. Their whole system of values becomes confused, their priorities – home, career. They’ll make them all crazy. Agreeing to this is forbidden,” Levinstein said.
“Someone told me recently, ‘Don’t worry. They’re just practicing putting on makeup for their wedding day.’ I don’t know who will marry them. She’ll tell the kids battlefield stories at night.”
Levinstein reportedly has been criticized for the remarks by his students, their parents and donors to the yeshiva.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman threatened to withdraw official recognition of the Eli pre-army academy and hesder yeshiva if Levinstein did not resign over his remarks. He has summoned Levinstein for a meeting, which the rabbi says he will not attend.
In the wake of the speech, leaders of religious Zionist yeshivas in Israel called on religious students to refrain from serving in mixed-gender combat units and called on the heads of the Israeli military to show sensitivity to the soldiers.
Channel 2 reported last week that the army’s chief of staff, Gadi Eisenkot, promised in a meeting with religious Zionist rabbis that the military would increase the separation of men and women in areas such as sleeping quarters, bathrooms and battalions at the officer training base.