IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.- Gen. Benny Gantz on Tuesday morning clarified that the IDF does not restrict women from singing in army ceremonies. The clarification came after a number of incidents during which Orthodox soldiers refused to participate in events featuring vocal performances by women.

"There's room in the IDF for women to contribute in whatever way they can," he told Army Radio, adding that "the Hebrew singer is a part of our culture."

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According to the IDF chief, attendance is mandatory in formal ceremonies and all soldiers are required to participate.

In non-formal events, however, the IDF Command "has established that we need to show respect and not force them to participate - we aren't looking to fight with people."

Gantz also addressed an incident during which he and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were unknowingly recorded by journalists cracking a joke about women serving in the IDF, saying that he believes people understand the difference between joking and speaking about serious matters.

The controversial remarks were made when Gantz and Barak were on the Golan Heights to visit an exercise of the Golani Brigade’s 51st Battalion. At one point, Barak turned to Gantz and asked, “What are these female soldiers doing here? Where are they from?”

“They are here to sing. They sing during their break,” Gantz replied with a chuckle.

OC Golani Brigade Col. Ofek Buhris said, “It’s not a problem if they sing. It’s fine.”


Barak said, “I have Dana here with me from my media office. She’s from a moshav, she can sing and she is not in uniform.”

“As long as she’s not in uniform but wearing clothes it’s okay,” Buhris said.

Gantz also added in the interview that the number of women commanders serving in the IDF testifies to how different reality is from the situation described in the joke. He made mention of the recent promotion of Orna Barbivai that has made her the first woman in Israeli history to be promoted to the rank of major general.

Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.

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