Military Rabbinate
File:IDF rabbanut emblem.jpg
IDF Rabbinate emblem
Active 1948
Country Israel
Branch Army
Role Infantry
Brigadier General Avichai Rontzki
Rabbi Shlomo Goren

The Military Rabbinate is a unit in the Israel Defense Forces that provides religious services to soldiers, primarily to Jews but also including non-Jews, and makes decisions on issues of religion and military affairs. The Military Rabbinate is headed by the Chief Military Rabbi, who is ranked a Brigadier General. The current Chief Military Rabbi is Avichai Rontzki [1].

The Military Rabbinate constitutes the body responsible for religious institutions in the military. In every unit or military base there are Military Rabbinate soldiers assigned responsibility for assuring religious services, and in particular, the Kashrut of the kitchen and the maintenance of the synagogue and its inventory. Actively serving soldiers can request from the Rabbinate representatives to perform marriage ceremonies as well as the brit mila. The unit otherwise attends to marriage bureaucracy and divorces of individuals during their military service.

The Military Rabbinate is responsible for treating the bodies of soldiers from the Halakha standpoint, including the identifications and post-mortem treatment of bodies, and conducting military funerals. The Military Rabbinate also attends to the burial of enemy soldiers and the exhuming in conjunction with prisoner exchanges. Prior to the establishment of ZAKA, it was also responsible for treating the victims of suicide attacks. More recently, it was placed in charge of dismantling of the cemetery in Gush Katif during the Gaza disengagement plan.

The Military Rabbinate was founded in 1948 by Rabbi Shlomo Goren, who headed it until 1968. Until 2000, the Chief Military Rabbi tended to remain in their positions for a considerable period of time. After Rabbi Goren, from 1968-1977, the Chief Military Rabbi was Rabbi Mordechai Peron. From 1977-2000, the position was held by Rabbi Gad Navon. From 2000-2006, the Chief Military Rabbi was Rabbi Israel Weiss.

Weiss introduced many changes into the Rabbinate including giving soldiers much more access to the unit and increasing the Rabbinates dealings with the religious soldiers. Weiss is infamous for being the chief rabbi during the 2005 disengagement from Gaza and was in charge of disinterring 48 graves from the Gush Katif cemetery[2]. For that role, he has been criticized and attacked by opponents of the disengagement[3].

Brigadier-General Rontzki began his service in the rabbinate on March 27, 2006. The appointment was recommended by the then Chief of Staff, Dan Halutz and approved by the then Minister of Defense, Shaul Mofaz.

This new appointment was seen as a direct consequence of the controversial remarks by Israel Weiss wherein he appeared to have agreed with the former Chief Ashkenazi National Authority of Religious Services Rabbi, Avraham Shapira, who called on soldiers who are religious Jews to disobey orders to forcefully remove settlers from the Gaza Strip during the Gaza disengagement plan. While Israel Weiss retracted and apologized for the "slip up", the event drew a great deal of controversy in military circles and in Israel in general.

2009 incitement controversy

According to Israeli Palestinian human rights group Yesh Din, during the 2009 Gaza conflict, the military rabbinate distributed a religious booklet that labeled Palestinians as "murderers" and warned against showing mercy to the terrorists residing in Gaza. [4] The publications compared modern-day Palestinians to the Biblical Philistines and denied the historical existence of a Palestinian national identity. [5] According to Yesh Din, the booklet could be interpreted as justifying violations of international laws of war.


External links

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