'To rabbis: Apologize - or be fired'

New petition calls on the government to fire rabbis who object to IDF's integration of women into combat roles.

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Tzvi Lev,

Rabbi Eyal Karim
Rabbi Eyal Karim
צילום: Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90

The Female Combatants Forum, a group representing hundreds of female combat soldiers in the IDF, has started an online petition calling on the government to fire rabbis who object to the IDF's efforts at integrating women into combat roles.

The group released a video titled 'This is what they think of us" in which female combat soldiers from the IDF's mixed-gender battalions read inflammatory statements about women from leading Religious Zionist rabbis, including Rabbi Yosef Kelner and Rabbi Yigal Levenstein from the Eli pre-military academy and IDF Chief Rabbi Eyal Karim.

"Freedom of speech to say nonsense does not justify funding coming from our pockets," read the petition. "We sign this petition and call upon the rabbis we quoted to apologize for their humiliating attacks on women and IDF soldiers."

The army's efforts to increase the of female combat soldiers has infuriated many Religious Zionist rabbis, who point to the spiritual challenges mixed gender units pose to religious troops and question - along with many military figures - the operational wisdom behind the move.

Last month, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, a leading Religious Zionist rabbi, ruled that it is forbidden to serve in a combat unit with women and said that it was better to avoid serving in the IDF until there was better separation between the genders. "Either (serve in) a separate unit, or don't enlist for now. You cannot do the mitzvah of serving in the army by committing a transgression," wrote Rabbi Aviner.

Tzfat Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu caused a furor in Janurary when he called for IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot to be fired. Eliyahu refused to retract his statements and was subsequently banned from IDF bases by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.

Eliyahu also argued that Eizenkot "wants a war" with the religious community. "They mix boys and girls in the IDF in all areas. They boast that they’ve already managed with 90 percent, and they hope for 100" said Eliyahu at a conference. "It’s an unhinged agenda, but the problem is that this agenda now leads the IDF."