Israel is in the midst of a growing controversy over the replacement of chief rabbi, Brig. Gen. Rafi Peretz, of the Israeli Defense Forces. His replacement will be Rabbi Col. Eyal Karim, who has been denounced for suggesting that Israeli soldiers are morally justified in raping Muslim women during wartime as well as other misogynistic statements.
Karim is the head of the Rabbinate Department in the Military Rabbinate and an alumnus of the Bnei Akiva Nachalim and the Ateret Cohanim yeshivas. He is also a former paratrooper and commander of the elite reconnaissance unit.
In 2012, Karim made his statement as part of the religious website KIPA. He was asked, given certain biblical passages, if IDF soldiers were permitted to commit rape during wartime. He responded:
“Although intercourse with a female gentile is very grave, it was permitted during wartime (under the conditions it stipulated) out of consideration for the soldiers’ difficulties. And since our concern is the success of the collective in the war, the Torah permitted [soldiers] to satisfy the evil urge under the conditions it stipulated for the sake of the collective’s success.”
What is astonishing is that Karim also previously opposed the inclusion of women in the military as morally indefensible to protect the “modesty” of Jewish women:
“In a situation such as the one during the War of Independence, in which there was a real pikuah nefesh [matter of life or death] of the Jewish people, women also participated in the defense of the nation and country, even though the situation was not so modest,” he wrote. “But in our era, we do not live with a real threat to our survival. . . . And because of the liable damage to the modesty of the girl and the nation, the great rabbis and the Chief Rabbinate have ruled that the enlistment of girls to the IDF is entirely forbidden.”
The head of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, MK Aida Touma-Sliman, denounced the appointment. Likewise, the chairperson of Na’amat Movement of Working Women & Volunteers, Galia Wolloch, called for the withdrawal of the appointment for a man “who thinks that rape is okay as a morale-booster for soldiers.” Meretz party leader Zehava Galon has condemned Karim for “his frightening, racist, and inflammatory statement” regarding wartime rape.
The IDF has stood by its nominee and issued a statement from Karim that he now “wishes to clarify that his words were only uttered in response to a theoretical hermeneutical question, certainly not to a practical halachic question.” Ok, what exactly does that mean? The above quote seems more than a hermeneutical discussion. More importantly, it may be difficult to explain to the rape victim that her assault was more hermeneutical than actual.