The commander of one of the Israeli army's infantry brigades refused an offer for a free concert for his troops that was scheduled to be performed by female pop star Sarit Hadad for fear that her presence would insult the sensibilities of religious soldiers, according to Channel 10.
Col. Ofer Winter, the commander of the Givati Brigade, refused to allow the concert to go ahead, even though Hadad had offered to sing for the troops for free, according to Channel 10.
The singer was ready to appear at a special brigade event next week, but those plans appear to be off.
Winter has courted controversy in the past, particularly when it comes to the influence of religion in the military.
A letter of encouragement written by Winter to his soldiers containing several biblical references and religious overtones generated condemnation from secularist groups and support from senior public officials, including Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben-Dahan.
Just before the start of last month's ground incursion in the Gaza Strip, Winter sent a letter to soldiers under his command saying that it was a great merit to be in the vanguard of a fight against “the terrorist enemy that dares to curse, blaspheme and scorn the God of Israel.”
Winter said the brigade should accept the mission upon itself with humility and be prepared to give up their lives “to protect our families, our people and our homeland.”
He continued, “I look up to the heavens and I read with you ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one,’” quoting the Shema prayer recited twice a day in the Jewish liturgy.
“The Lord, the God of Israel, make our path on which we go successful, as we are poised to fight for your people Israel against an enemy that abuses your name. In the name of the fighters of the IDF and in particular the brigade and the commanders, may the verse be fulfilled for us that ‘the Lord your God goes with you to fight for you with your enemies to save you,’ and we will say ‘Amen.’ Together and only together we will win.”
Mickey Gitzin, the head of the Israel Be Free secularist movement, criticized Winter’s letter, saying his words turned the conflict into a religious war.
“IDF commanders should also remember that the IDF is the national army, not a religious militia, and therefore he needs to include everyone who serves in the IDF, haredim, national-religious, secular, Jews and non-Jews, and to refrain from the kind of terminology he used,” Gitzin said.
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.