Pre-military yeshiva head who denigrated female soldiers goes on leave

(JTA) – The rabbinic head of a religious Zionist pre-military yeshiva in the West Bank who said the Israeli army drives female soldiers “crazy” and upsets their Jewishness has gone on an indefinite leave from his position.

The Bnei David academy in the Eli settlement told Israel’s Channel 2, which first reported Rabbi Yigal Levinstein’s leave, that it has nothing to do with calls to have him removed over his controversial statements in March.

Channel 2 reported that the leave had been requested two months ago, before his remarks were made public.

“Rabbi Yigal Levinstein continues to teach and to stand at the head of Bnei David,” the yeshiva told Channel 2 in a statement.

On Wednesday, Levinstein said in a letter to his students, “Because I have gone on study leave, I would request that you refrain from contacting me during my studies.”

Footage of the original remarks was broadcast on Channel 2 about a week after Levinstein made them to several hundred students visiting from another West Bank pre-military academy.

“They draft them. They go in Jewish and they’re not Jewish when they come out — not in terms of genetics,” the rabbi said. “Their whole system of values becomes confused, their priorities – home, career. They’ll make them all crazy. Agreeing to this is forbidden.

“Someone told me recently, ‘Don’t worry. They’re just practicing putting on makeup for their wedding day.’ I don’t know who will marry them. She’ll tell the kids battlefield stories at night.”

Levinstein reportedly was criticized for the remarks by his students, their parents and donors to the yeshiva.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman threatened to withdraw official recognition of the Eli pre-army academy and hesder yeshiva if Levinstein did not resign over his remarks. He summoned the rabbi to a meeting, which never took place.

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