Call for Probe of IDF Rabbinate

MK Slomiansky says newspaper stories which prompted the call are a bored intellectual minority's attempt to "divide the people".

Ernie Singer ,

MK Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor) said on Thursday that he would request an emergency meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to investigate the Rabbinate of the Israel Defense Forces, following an article in Thursday's Haaretz daily that claimed the Rabbinate is "brainwashing" soldiers religiously and politically. The former minister also wrote a letter to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, asking him to order an immediate investigation into the Rabbinate's activities.

According to the Thursday article, IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, has already ordered an investigation of donations that have allowed the Rabbinate to increase its activities in areas previously served only by the IDF's Education Corps. This includes the activities of the Jewish Awareness unit, which offers information on historic Israeli military battles and learning about the Land of Israel, as well as what the unit's brochure calls activities and programs "based on biblical sources, appropriate for all soldiers and commanders, also for those who do not come from a religious background".

Other publications include a booklet for "commanders from a Jewish viewpoint", and Jewish Awareness offers advice and help in writing and integrating programs and materials on Jewish awareness in military courses. The unit also offers seminars and conferences all over the country, including Shabbat retreats, which the Education Corps does not have the funds to match.

A senior officer was quoted by the newspaper as saying "This is a gross invasion of the Education Corps area, which does not approve the content and the exploitation of soldiers, who are a captive audience, coming for the Sabbath under orders. [Chief IDF Rabbi Avichai] Ronski and his subordinates are breaking the status quo operating in the IDF from the days of Ben-Gurion."

In his letter to Barak, Pines-Paz wrote "The Rabbinate is overstepping its authority, which is solely to provide religious services, and is acting in an aggressive manner in order to cause Israel Defense Forces soldiers to become religiously observant. This activity undermines religious-secular relations in the IDF and leads the army into dealing with areas beyond its scope. It uses the IDF to advance religious and political ideas. The Rabbinate is bringing religion in through the back door, in a dangerous manner, and harming the IDF's ability to fulfill its mission."

Member of Knesset Nissan Slomiansky (National Union/National Religious Party) responded on Thursday to the attacks by saying, "Apparently we have reached the calm at the end of our trials, all the political, financial and coalition problems have been solved, and it's beginning to be boring, so they have no choice but to find a 'new subject' for dividing the people."

Commenting on the Haaretz article and one in Yediot Ahronot's Sukkot holiday supplement on the number of religious soldiers serving in the Israel Defense Forces, Slomiansky said, "It's a war at the lowest and most contemptible level of culture, reminiscent of dark days, as if they are stealing the army from that frightened little intellectual minority group. And they are ready to destroy everything, in any way, and the result doesn't matter, as long as the Bible disappears from the horizon and men who wear kippot go back to their holes. When they don't serve in the army it's a national tragedy and when they do, it's a danger to the state. Is there no limit to that minority group's nerve and lack of shame?