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New Incoming Israeli Army Chief Rabbi Accused of Condoning Wartime Rape

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The appointment of a 59-year-old colonel as the next chief rabbi for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has caused controversy in the Israeli parliament, as the colonel has stated that the rape of women during wartime is permissible.

Col. Eyal Karim is known for his misogynistic leanings. On the religious website Kipa, Karim answers questions people send him. When asked "What are the problems with conscripting girls to the army?" he answered, "In a situation that existed, such as in the War of Independence, that exposed the nation of Israel to an existential threat, and the reality is defined as actually pikuach nefesh [a Jewish concept that obligates believers to save a life in jeopardy, even if religious boundaries must be crossed] then women also participated in defending the people and the country, even though the reality wasn't so modest. But currently, we aren't in a situation of actual pikuach nefesh." 

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He added, "Because the damage to modesty that is likely to be caused to a girl and to the nation is decisive, the greats of the generation and the chief rabbinate have ruled that girls serving in the IDF is completely forbidden."

But the response that caused the greatest disgust came when Karim was asked if soldiers were permitted to rape women during war. Karim responded that soldiers are allowed to “breach” notions of modesty and "satisfy the evil inclination by lying with attractive Gentile women against their will, out of consideration for the difficulties faced by the soldiers and for overall success."

Karim is replacing Gen. Rafi Peretz, who is leaving after serving as chief rabbi for six years.

In 2011, Karim declared that women should not sing at IDF ceremonies, citing Jewish law. He wrote, "It's desirable to create a ceremonial post that respects the views of all those present at the ceremony, and, to that end, to bring a male and not a female singer…When this would not be possible, due to various reasons, those whose sensitivities would be offended must be excused from attending the ceremony." 

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Women’s rights groups, and many others, have called for Karim’s appointment to be revoked. MK Aida Touma-Sliman, head of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, said, "Col. Karim's ruling on permitting raping non-Jewish women is similar to the fatwa of a murderous organization that's not so far from Israel's borders. I will contact the attorney general and oppose the appointment, and I call on female and male members of Knesset to join my request." 

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The spokesperson’s office of the IDF has responded by claiming that Karim’s comments have been taken out of context.  

"Col. Karim asks to clarify that his statement was issued as the answer to a theoretical question and not in any way whatsoever a question of practical Jewish law," the statement read. 

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