Calling for Dismissal
After the regretful and humiliating incident of the ousting of four religious military cadets from an officers training course, and the demand of five others to apologize for leaving the room while women soldiers sang, what needs to be done is the firm calling for the dismissal of both the Brigade Commander of the Officers Training Base, Colonel Eran Niv, and the Regiment Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Uzi Kleiger.
Everyone knows that an officer who gets into unnecessary confrontations with his soldiers is a bad officer, and any reasonable person realizes that this is exactly what they did. The issue is not only the soldiers’ rights to be loyal to their religious conscience. We are talking about respect for Jewish tradition. Not only did these officers humiliate the soldiers, but they also disgraced Jewish tradition and their own grandparents, who, for the duration of all the exiles, safeguarded and kept the Torah and mitzvoth with utter self-sacrifice. Only in their merit were their grandson’s, Eran Niv, and Uzi Kleiger, born in Israel, and able to reach their present positions in the Israel Defense Forces.
The officers’ actions also show a lack of national responsibility. At a time when everyone knows just how important it is for the Haredi public to become integrated into the army, these officers blatantly declare – with the support of the Chief of Staff and the Minister of Defense – that the army has decided to humiliate the religious and Haredi public who are loyal to Jewish tradition.
In July 2004, a problem erupted in the Officer’s Training Base: the Brigade Commander, Gal Hirsh, created a situation where it was impossible to conduct morning prayers in a quorum of ten males, as is required by Jewish law. The cadets felt threatened, and did not dare to complain. From my column in this newspaper, I called to the representatives of the religious and Haredi public, but the response was weak. Two years later, during the war in Lebanon, it turned out that Brigadier General Gal Hirsh was one of the major guilty figures in the failure, which caused severe erosion to Israel’s deterrent force, and the deaths of many soldiers.
And thus, Rabbi Goren, of blessed memory, used to say: An officer in the I.D.F. who does not respect Judaism’s sacredness, will also not be successful in battle. Therefore, when Rabbi Goren found out that a Regiment Commander had acted wrongly towards religious soldiers, he did not agree to accept apologies, rather, demanded the dismissal of the commander from the army. Only in this way is possible to make sure that the military directives concerning Judaism’s sacredness are kept properly.
Chief Rabbi of the I.D.F.
Unfortunately, the Chief I.D.F. Rabbi, with all his known virtues, is irrelevant in this issue. He is appointed by the Minister of Defense and the Chief of Staff, and if he were to make a decision in opposition to their opinion, he most probably would be thrown out the army. Therefore, under such circumstances, his position carries no weight. Only in a circumstance where his opinion is in opposition to that of the Minister of Defense and the Chief of Staff, and in spite of the pressure placed upon him, he does not change his view, and is not dismissed – only then can we be sure that, indeed, his decisions are made independently. Without this, his authority as a ‘posek halacha’ (decider of Jewish law) is questionable. True, he still has an important job as the director of religious matters in the army, but not as a ‘posek’.
Religious Community Leaders
If the religious community leaders wonder why the large, religious public doesn’t vote for the religious political parties, they can scrutinize this story – and similar ones – and understand the answer. It is hard to imagine a similar incident happening to leftists. No officer would even think of forcing people from the left-wing Meretz Party, whose numbers are way smaller, to do something that goes against their conscience, unless it was of top security reasons. A similar example might be if Rabbi Amnon Yitzchak was invited to give a talk at the Officers Training Base on ‘chazara b’tshuva’ (becoming religious), and a number of leftist cadets walked-out, and the Regiment and Brigade Commanders’ threw them out of the officers course. Could you just imagine what their representatives in the Knesset would do, and how long it would take for those officers to be rebuked, and find themselves thrown out of the army?
This is exactly what the religious and Haredi community leaders must do now – to demand these officers’s dismissal from the army. Nothing less. And even if it takes time – not to rest, and not to be quiet, until they are removed. Sometimes a firm stand must be taken, so that others will take heed and fear, and not knowingly sin.
We can take limited consolation from the courageous cadets who acted properly, but to our great dismay, were left alone and abandoned in the struggle.