Recent homophobic comments by Israel’s religious leaders are a reminder that the struggle for a pluralistic society will only grow more intense in the years to come.
By Yossi Dahan
The recent remarks by Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, head of the distinguished IDF preparatory yeshiva in the West Bank settlement Eli, who called the LGBT community “perverts” and accused Reform Judaism of being an “offshoot of Christianity” — are not a coincidence. Not only do they express a moral opposition to what is happening within the army, they are part of a political attempt to signal to the IDF chief of staff and the army’s chief education officer that Levinstein and other top rabbis do not intend to forgo their influence and power in molding IDF soldiers’ lifestyle and principles.
Professor Yagil Levy uses the term “theocratization of the army” to describe the influence of national-religious rabbis — some of them heads of army preparatory programs, others heads of preparatory yeshiva (which combine religious studying with IDF service) — on the army. Levy describes a process by which religious authorities begin to take precedent over state authorities. In the eyes of rabbis such as Levinstein, there is a limit to the legitimacy of state laws. As they see it, in the struggle between state law and religious law, the latter wins out.
Newly-appointed IDF Chief Rabbi Eyal Karim shares Levinstein’s worldview in everything having to do with women, LGBTs, and religious rules of warfare — which justifies acts such as killing wounded enemy combatants, along with innocent civilians. According to international law, these acts are considered war crimes and are a blatant violation of both military and state law.
The process of subjugating soldiers’ personal lives to religious principles is characterized, according to Levy, by attempts to pressure the army to implement religious practices, as well as through a gradual takeover of the IDF from the inside, so as to directly influence what happens in the army. The co-founder of the Eli preparatory yeshiva, Rabbi Eli Sadan, who was awarded the Israel Prize last year (and who had reservations about Levinstein’s remarks) has previously stated: “We must find our way into all the establishments — the army, the Shin Bet, the legal system — in order to mold the perfect state.” Similar remarks were made by Rabbi Shlomo Aviner: “Our army is holy… sometimes there are a few unfavorable changes, but they won’t succeed. We must not fall asleep at the wheel, but...Read More