News from the National Religious Press
Rabbis Versus Rabbis
The first in a series offering a look into the Religious Zionist press in Israel.
The IDF decided to cancel a planned lecture by Rabbi Yaakov Yosef to soldiers of the Kfir brigade. R. Yosef, the eldest son of Shas party’s spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, was denied access to the army base by central command’s chief rabbi, as part of the army’s new policy on the supervision of religious figures who wish to act within it. Yosef has been critical of the IDF rabbinical authority in the past, declaring that many of its religious policies do not align with his interpretation of traditional Jewish law.
The IDF’s opposition to R. Yosef has grown lately as a result of his support of extreme right wing publications such as the "The King’s Torah," a text which declares that the command "Thou Shalt Not Murder" applies only to Jews.
Former IDF chief rabbis, Rabbi Avichai Rontzky and Rabbi Hillel Weiss, both supported the decision to ban him from addressing the troops, stating that, in light of his hostility towards the IDF, Rabbi Yosef has no business entering army bases.
The up and coming moderate Rabbis’ forum Beit Hillel, which was created to counter ongoing religious extremity within the religious-Zionist community and which includes prominent figures such as Rabbi Yoel Bin-Nun and MK Daniel Hershkowitz, is already receiving heavy criticism. One attack came in the form of an interview in "Olam Katan," a weekly pamphlet distributed in synagogues across the country. Rabbi Herschel Schachter of Yeshiva University claimed that the new group was deliberately misrepresenting the late Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, a central figure of modern Orthodoxy whom Beit Hillel claim as a major source of authority for the group’s activities. An official response stated that they found it unfortunate that R. Schachter had been misled by libelous publications meant to undermine Beit Hillel’s efforts.
At least five students in a well-known religious-Zionist high school claim to have been the victims of sexual abuse by a counselor. The students, all of whom stay in the high school dormitory, accused theirextra-curricular activities counselor of touching them in their private parts while waking them for the Morning Prayer and forcing them to perform sexual acts in front of him. Upon learning about the disturbing incident, the children’s parents along with the high school administration immediately filed a complaint. The counselor was placed under arrest until further charges are made.
The publication of the incident caused an uproar within the religious-Zionist community and garnered a wide range of responses. Hushed up in the past, the issue of sexual harassment within the religious sector has recently been pushed into the spotlight. Rabbi Yonah Goodman of ‘Orot Israel’ College called on parents to be vigilant and not to fear discussing the matter with their children. Although not directly commenting on this incident, Rabbi Yaakov Druckman, who recently won the esteemed Israel prize, agreed that sexual harassment must be dealt with and condemned, but warned that authorities should be cautious not to publicize such cases before a final verdict.