Rabbi Rafi Peretz, a rosh yeshiva and former resident of Gush Katif, has been selected as the next IDF Chief Rabbi, replacing Brigadier-General Rabbi Avichai Ronsky who will be stepping down after four years in the post. IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-General Gabi Ashkenazi has decided not to extend his tenure for a fifth year as is customary.
Rabbi Peretz, 54 and the father of 12, served as a helicopter pilot in the air force, holding the rank of lt.-colonel. Upon assuming his new post, his rank will be raised to brigadier-general.
A graduate of Yerushalayim’s Netiv Meir Yeshiva High School and Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva, Rabbi Peretz was among the first frum pilots, a rare find in his day. In his reserve duty he serves as a flight instructor. Prior to the expulsion of Gush Katif residents in 2005, Rabbi Peretz was rosh yeshiva of the Atzmona IDF Prepatory Yeshiva, relocating to Moshav Yated in the Negev following the removal of Jews from Gaza by the Ariel Sharon administration.
Rabbi Peretz remains an outspoken opponent of insubordination in the military, and even during the expulsion, he spoke out against those calling on soldiers and officer to disobey orders pertaining to the expulsion.
The appointment also enjoys the approval of the chief rabbis of Israel. Peretz’s outer appearance is unique for a chief military rav since he is clean shaven.
Rav Peretz spoke on Wednesday morning with Yarom Dekel from Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet, confirming he knew he was among the candidates considered for the post. Peretz stated that both Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-General Gabi Ashkenazi seem determined to instill Jewish pride in the army and in the nation as a whole and he hopes to be a shaliach towards restoring Jewish pride in the soldiers in the IDF.
Regarding the expulsion, he states it is clear to all today, as it was then, that the expulsion was a mistake, but the fact that he agreed to return to active service and wear the IDF uniform signals closure, a will to continue working together and building. This with the knowledge that at the time of the expulsion, 450 of his students were serving in the IDF, some included in the soldiers sent to pull him and his talmidim out. Therefore, he did not permit anyone to take them out, and his decision was to hug the soldiers and they walked out of the beis medrash on their own, embracing the soldiers and officers during the most difficult time.
“In a home, there are parents and children, and those seeking to destroy the house do not see the home, as was the case in the expulsion. We mustn’t permit this to happen. I have not changed my position and the concept of refusing orders, using signs, should not occur. We cannot play both sides”.
Peretz had words of praise for the rabbonim of hesder, personally acquainted with many of them, therefore declining to respond to questions pertaining to Har Bracha and Rav Eliezer Melamed.
“If I must pay a price for my ‘ahavas chinom’ for this precious people and army, so be it”.
When asked with whom he consults for spiritual guidance, Rav Peretz stated his moreh derech throughout his life has been Rav Yehuda Tzukerman and he also consults with Rabbi Avigdor Neventzahl Shlita, Rav of the Old City of Jerusalem.
(Yechiel Spira – YWN Israel)