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Friday, June 14, 2013

IDF set to slash kashrut inspectors

As the defense establishment is busy making large cuts to the defense budget to comply with the austerity measures imposed by Finance Minister Yair Lapid, it is one rather small cut that may prove the most politically incendiary: the 25% cut to budget of the IDF Rabbinate that may force the religious authority to withdraw many non-commissioned officers from their posts as kashrut inspectors, meaning it will no longer be able to guarantee the provisions handed out to the soldiers are kosher.

Sources at the Rabbinate told Yedioth Ahronoth this could mean religious soldiers would refuse to enter the army canteens; some went as far as suggesting hunger strikes are in the cards.

Others said the combat units, in isolation from the big bases, will be the worst hit, as their less-than-rigid kashrut standards will further deteriorate, brewing discontent.

In units positioned in the Gaza vicinity area, the West Bank and the northern border, the visits of the kashrut inspectors are irregular, and the army puts its trust in the integrity of the kitchen workers and the soldiers. The kitchens are used to store and prepare both dairy and meat products, which makes the procedures involved in keeping kashrut more complicated.

Additionally, it often happens that secular soldiers are tasked with kitchen duty, which leads to errors in protocol. "The starting point in those kitchens is not great as things stand," the source told Yedioth Ahronoth. "And removal of kashrut inspectors will lead to the effective banishment of the religious soldiers from the kitchens."

"Ben Gurion set two key conditions to the integration of religious soldiers within the military: observance of Shabat and kashrut. Should the measure be implemented, it will drive the religious soldiers away from the combat units."

Sources within the top ranks say IDF are wary of the political implications of the decision, yet acquiesce there is no alternative as even the most sensitive operational functionalities are being hit by the cuts. "Fewer inspectors will have to do more work," the source said.

The IDF's Spokesperson's Unit responded to the reports saying "The IDF is preparing to switch toward functioning within the limits of the current budget, and various proposals for streamlining are being weighed. The proposals are being examined and no decision has been made yet."

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