Head of IDI’s Religion and State Program: ‘It Should be Forbidden to Appoint Rabbis to Senior Posts who Copy-and-Paste Laws from Biblical Times and Apply them to Today’

In the aftermath of Wednesday’s approval by IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot of Rabbi Col. Eyal Karim as the new IDF Chief Rabbi, the Israel Democracy Institute’s Yair Sheleg, head of the center’s Religion and State Program, said there is no doubt that the problem with the appointment is not a personal but principled one. He said opinions about Karim’s appointment should continue to be heard.

Sheleg said, that certain of Karim’s religious and ideological viewpoints, which were expressed through statements quoted by the media – how he relates to the LGBT community, the testimony of women, the fate of injured terrorists and soldiers refusing to abide by orders when they believe they conflict with Jewish law – should disqualify him from the role of IDF Chief Rabbi.

“The statement made by the IDF following Eisenkot’s discussion with Karim emphasized Karim’s commitment to ensuring that the IDF Rabbinate, under his command, would respect all people regardless of religion, race or sexual preference,” Sheleg noted. “However, that statement should have been made alongside a further statement regarding Karim’s interpretation of Judaism for daily life. The way in which some rabbis in Israel today relate to current events is to compare how to handle them with how they were handled in the Torah, merely copying-and-pasting the Jewish reality of 2,000 years ago to the current reality in sovereign, democratic Israel. This is problematic when it relates to public life.”

Sheleg said religious viewpoints should be rooted in Torah, but they must be explained in a modern context, which is quite different than the world that once was.

“Taking a humanist viewpoint will bring respect to the Torah of Israel,” Sheleg said. “Only rabbis who take on this approach to Jewish law are truly fit to serve in senior public roles.”

He called on Karim to declare publically that this is his perspective and principle stance and that he will act in accordance with it in his new role.

Said Sheleg, “When he chose to remain silent, it sharpened the problems with his appointment, even if, in the end, he turns out to be more moderate and statesman-like than his predecessor.”