The military dismissed a prominent rabbi from his position in the reserves on Sunday after he said the Israel Defense Forces was “destroying families” by encouraging women to enlist.
Under Israeli law, all men and women are required to enlist in the military at age 18, barring special exemptions.
Rabbi Tzvi Kostiner, a longtime critic of women’s military service, recently unleashed a tirade in which he stated that the IDF was “waging a cultural war and trying to destroy families” by encouraging young women to serve in an ever-growing list of roles, including combat roles. The remarks appear to have crossed the line, resulting in his dismissal.
Kostiner, who heads a pre-military religious academy in southern Israel, is a very active reservist. He has been a reservist for 25 years and has been heading a military rabbis’ training course for the past decade.
According to his associates, Kostiner serves six weeks every year of active reserve duty.
Kostiner’s associates lambasted the IDF’s decision to remove him from his position in the reserves. “It’s unthinkable that rabbis will now have to worry about expressing their scholarly opinions because they might be removed from their positions,” said one associate.
“Lately, we’ve gotten the sense that there is an increasing attempt to muzzle rabbis in general, and also in the IDF, and to intimidate them into aligning themselves with liberal views,” the associate added.
Others criticized Israel Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who heads the religious Zionist political party Habayit Hayehudi and demanded he side with rabbis who oppose women’s military service.
“When rabbis like Shmuel Eliyahu, Shlomo Aviner, Yigal Levinstein, and now, Tzvi Kostiner—rabbis who for years have been sending thousands of their students to shore up the IDF’s ranks—are suspended or dismissed, the education minister should wake up and insist on their right to voice the positions of the Torah without fearing dismissal. That is how it should be in a Jewish state,” another associate said.
The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit clarified that “Rabbi Kostiner remains in active reserve duty, but it was decided that at this time, he will no longer head the rabbis’ course.” JN