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Early life and career
Karim grew up in Givatayim, Israel, and studied at Yeshivat Bnei Akiva. In August 1975, after he was drafted to the IDF, he volunteered as a paratrooper in the Paratroopers Brigade, and in 1985 became an infantry officer after completing Officer Candidate School. He served as a platoon leader in the 202 Paratroop Battalion, and as a company commander.
In 1981, he took leave of absence, and studied at the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva. After the Lebanon war, he served as commander of a detachment in the elite Sayeret Matkal unit. In 1983–1984, he served as commander of the paratroops. In 1985–2005, he served as a commander with the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Division of Fire in reserve.
From 1985 to 1994, he studied at Ateret Cohanim, where he was awarded rabbinic ordination. From 1995 to 1999, he taught in the pre-military academy (mechina) of the yeshiva. He was later appointed director of the mechina, a position that he held until 2004.
In 2006, he responded to the request of Rabbi Avichai Rontzki, Chief Rabbi of the IDF, to return to army service. Upon his return, he served as head of the appropriate combination (Shiluv HaRa'uy), and then as head of the Halacha section of the Military Rabbinate.
Appointment as Chief Rabbi of the IDF
In 2016, Karim was nominated to serve as the head of the Military Rabbinate of the IDF. The nomination was criticized over remarks made in 2002 in which Karim appeared to suggest that soldiers were allowed to rape Gentile women during wartime, and that women were forbidden from serving in the IDF. After the controversy, Karim said that his remarks about rape during wartime were not meant to apply in the modern era. Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On said Karim was not "suitable" for the role because of the remarks. Yair Lapid said Karim should disavow his remarks, and he should not be the chief military rabbi.
Later that year, more controversy arose after further comments from Karim were unearthed. Karim said women were inherently unreliable to give testimony in court, that gay people should be treated as "ill or disabled" individuals, and that Palestinian attackers should not be treated as human beings, but as "animals".
Gal-On, along with two fellow Meretz members of Knesset, brought a petition to the Supreme Court of Israel to prevent Karim's appointment. The court suspended Karim's appointment, and asked him to clarify his remarks.
In his defense to the court, Karim strenuously denied saying that soldiers were permitted to rape in wartime. "I never said, I never wrote, and I never thought that it is permitted for an IDF soldier to rape women during a war... Such action is totally forbidden."
Regarding comparing homosexuals to ill or disabled people, Karim said that he had sought to express "the obligation to love, support, and help" gay individuals, but he now admits that approach is wrong. He further said he now rejects the idea of homosexuals fighting their sexual orientation.
In November 2016, the Meretz MKs released a statement saying they accepted Karim's explanation, and withdrew their petition.
In December 2016, Karim was sworn in as IDF chief rabbi and awarded the rank of brigadier general.
Rabbi Karim is married, and the father of six.
- Sharon, Jeremy (1 December 2016). "RABBI EYAL KARIM SWORN IN AS IDF CHIEF RABBI". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
- "IDF taps chief rabbi who once seemed to permit wartime rape". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 2017-01-11.
- "Controversial pick for IDF chief rabbi once said women incapable of court testimony". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 2017-01-11.
- "Meretz withdraws objection to IDF chief rabbi appointment". The Jerusalem Post | JPost.com. Retrieved 2017-01-11.
- "Rabbi Eyal Karim sworn in as IDF chief rabbi". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2017-01-11.