Education Minister Rabbi Shai Piron has ruled in the past that women should not
serve in the IDF.
His response to a question on the issue several years
ago came to light following comments made by Yesh Atid chairman and Finance
Minister Yair Lapid on Friday that Chief Rabbis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef
should be fired after the Chief Rabbinate reiterated its position that it is
forbidden according to Jewish law for women to enlist in the army.
No. 2 in Yesh Atid, who helped found the Orot Shaul hesder yeshiva in Petah
Tikva and served there as a co-dean, gave the ruling in 2002 in an online
response to a question by a religious girl who was asking for clarification on
the issue after her teacher said that women should not go to the IDF.
girl said she personally intended to go into the national service program for
religious girls, but that she wanted to know in principle if IDF service for
women was forbidden.
In response, Piron said that the main problem from a
religious perspective was connected to contact between men and women in the
“I’m unaware of any arbiters of Jewish law who permit going to the
army,” wrote Piron.
“The pressure, the unusual situation, is likely to
create impure aspects from the meeting between boys and girls.... Just as
we are aware of physical dangers, so too must we be sensitive to everything
pertaining to spiritual dangers,” he continued. “Therefore it is incumbent upon
you to do everything in order that you not find yourself in a risky situation
and to refrain from service that is potentially dangerous.”
of Piron’s opinion on the matter generated considerable controversy in light of
Lapid’s remarks, made on Friday on his Facebook page, that the chief rabbis
should be fired following the restatement of its longstanding position that
female enlistment in the army is prohibited by Jewish law.
“David Lau and
Yitzhak Yosef are no longer worthy to serve in Israel as chief rabbis,” he wrote
in a Facebook post.
“This is insolence and a national scandal, and we
will work for their dismissal in the Knesset and in the government, and if
necessary in the legal department as well,” the finance minister
Piron’s office said in response to the reports that the minister
“believes there is no place for draft evasion, including among religious girls,
and that in the light of the positions held by arbiters of Jewish law, they
should fulfill their obligations to the state with the two-year service in the
accepted national service program.”
He added that all Israeli youth
without exception, male or female, “have the right and obligation to serve the
state,” and that the attempt to “weaken the hands of those who serve, both men
and women, is illegitimate and unnecessary.”
The Chief Rabbinate has
opposed female enlistment since as far back as 1951, with concerns particularly
for religious girls for whom it was feared that service in the army would reduce
their level of religious observance.
According to data collected by
Ne’emanei Torah Ve’avodah (NTA), a moderate national-religious organization,
increasing numbers from the more prestigious ulpanot, Jewish girls high schools,
are enlisting to the IDF instead of the national service program.
Shmuel Eliyahu, the chief rabbi of Safed and member of the Council of the Chief
Rabbiante, has of late embarked on a strong campaign against religious girls
serving in the army in response to this recent trend.
Eliyahu, from the
conservative wing of the national religious movement, wrote a letter to the
principals of ulpanot recently saying that “military service is not fitting for
a Jewish girl.”
NTA said in response to the Chief Rabbinate’s statement
that the enlistment of religious girls is a “broad ideological question” and
that “many arbiters of Jewish law have recognized the fact that there is no one
correct answer for everyone.”
NTA continued saying that the statement by
the rabbinate “exposed once again the lack of relevance of the Council of the
Chief Rabbinate in its current composition, and its disconnect from the public.”