Furor Over Chief Rabbis’ Opposition to IDF Recruiting Religious Women

Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef (R) and Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef (R) and Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Lapid Demands Chief Rabbis Resign

The reiteration by Israel’s chief rabbis of a longstanding opposition to recruitment of religious women into the military has sparked a furor as Finance Minister Yair Lapid demanded their resignation, while other MKs defended them and demanded an apology from Lapid.

The rabbis’ statement was prompted by a meeting of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate last month, during which Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu raised the issue and asked that the panel restate its already firmly established position that women’s enlistment contravenes Jewish law, The Jerusalem Post reported. Thus, the chief rabbis were taking no new position.

Lapid said on Friday that “Rabbi David Lau and Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef are no longer worthy to serve in Israel as chief rabbis. This is insolence and a national scandal, and we will work for their dismissal in the Knesset and in the government, and if necessary in the legal department as well.”

As Sunday’s Hamodia (Hebrew edition) noted, the demand of a state-employed official’s resignation by another state-employed official due to a policy dispute is outside the norms of political discourse, even in the raucous Israeli arena.

The question was also asked on Sunday if Lapid would launch such an attack on secular judges in the courts system with whom he disagreed? And what would Lapid’s reaction be if a chareidi MK called for the firing of a judge because he didn’t like a ruling he had made?

Jewish Home MK Yoni Chetboun on Sunday took Lapid to task, demanding that he apologize to the chief rabbis for an insulting online post.

Chetboun, in an angry letter to Lapid, said, “It is shocking that you would demean the honor of the Torah in this way. I demand that you apologize for these remarks.”

Recruitment of religious women was a burning issue in the 1950s, when the Chazon Ish and leading Rabbanim steadfastly opposed the government’s plan. Ultimately, the law was passed, and a few young women were briefly imprisoned for refusing to serve, but after that the issue died down and it was tacitly accepted that religious women would not be forced to serve in the IDF.