Israel's military is curtailing a branch devoted to fostering Jewish identity called the Military Rabbinate, Haaretz reported Monday. Any decision to do away with the rabbinate is likely to be hotly contested by the branch.
Under the plan, which is supported by top commanders like Chief of Staff Lt. Gen Gadi Eisenkot, the branch would be put under the control of the military’s education corps, which provides educational opportunities for soldiers.
The rabbinate and the education corps have been fighting a turf war since at least 2012, when an internal audit determined that the educational resources in the military were sorely lacking and that the two should be combined under a single command structure. The target date for the merger has not yet been determined.
The rabbinate says it helps Jewish soldiers in the military find strength through religious inspiration to bolster their “sense of mission.” It offers religious classes, and runs a website and gives out reading materials.
The unscheduled restructuring isn’t the first sign that the rabbinate is facing an uncertain future. In August it was announced that the branch would lose a quarter of its officer positions to budget cuts. Those cuts were part of larger cuts that targeted mostly staff, not combat units. Members of the rabbinate are spread throughout the branches of the military.
Aside from its educational role, the rabbinate also oversee military kitchens to ensure that they are kosher. That is important to attract Orthodox Jews into the military.