Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, one of the heads of the paramilitary academy Benei David in Eli, responded Wednesday to the storm over his condemnation of religious soldiers in mixed gender units and religious young women's conscription to the IDF.
In an interview with Channel 2 anchor Sivan Rahav-Meir, Rabbi Levinstein apologized for his tone of speech. "My words were said in a sharp style which stemmed from my strong feelings on the matter. In the last two years a deep cultural process has begun in the IDF. Feminist ideologies which do not accord with Jewish values have penetrated the army."
Rabbi Levinstein stressed that young men can continue to serve in the IDF in the segregated units, but stressed that "in every place where the army insists on doing things which are halakhically prohibited, a religious soldier cannot participate. What can we do? We're religious. Just like they respect Kashrut and Shabbat, they must understand that religious youths have other restrictions. They have no problem with women but they cannot have physical contact with them or be secluded with them."
Rabbi Levinstein apologized for his derogatory tone regarding religious female soldiers but stressed that he was not changing his viewpoint. He said that "the IDF has made huge campaigns to conscript religious girls and the campaigns stem from a broader feminist desire to draw girls into these processes."
Rabbi Levinstein claimed that "the way in which I phrased my words insulted a number of the most special people whom I love, respect and admire. I have a deep ideological argument with these people but I apologize if they were insulted by the tone of the words." However he dismissed calls to cancel budgetary allocations to the academy he heads since "in the 30 years that I am here I have yet to hear of an officer or soldier harming a female soldier. The institution has never incited against female soldiers in any way."