Ex officer slammed for saying IDF becoming too religious

Zamir "lit a fire, then walked away," says Maj.-Gen. (res.) Elazar Stern; report criticized division between Rabbinate, Education Corps.

July 21, 2011 03:17
2 minute read.
religious soldiers 248.88

religious soldiers 248.88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)


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A former top IDF officer slammed Maj.-Gen. Avi Zamir, who stepped down as head of the Manpower Directorate several weeks ago leaving behind a critical report calling to curtail what he termed the growing religiosity of the IDF.

Former head of the Manpower Directorate Maj.-Gen. (res.) Elazar Stern slammed Zamir on Wednesday for “lighting a fire and then walking away without dealing with it.”

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'Israelis unconcerned with rise in religious IDF officers'

News of Zamir’s report appeared in the media on Wednesday morning and stirred controversy since it criticized the current division of authority between the Military Rabbinate and the Education Corps with respect to strengthening soldiers’ Jewish identity.

Zamir also spoke out in the 30-page report against what he called religious extremism, which he claimed was preventing the integration of female soldiers into various IDF units.

The tension surrounding the issue of religion in the IDF has gained prominence in recent years as a significant percentage of the military’s mid-level cadre of officers is religious and observant.

In the Golani Brigade, for example, the commander of the brigade and three of the battalion’s commanders are religious. In the Paratroopers’ Brigade, almost all the deputy battalion commanders slated to become future battalion commanders are religious.

Stern was particularly critical of Zamir’s decision to send his report to the IDF top brass on his last day in the post several weeks ago, and not confronting the problems while he was still in office.

Stern specifically spoke out against a recent incident during which cadets at the Bahd 1 Officer Training School walked out of a ceremony when a female singer took to the stage. Female soldiers have also complained of discrimination with regard to appointments to training positions – since commanders who have a large number of religious soldiers in their units prefer to work only with male instructors.

“There are two problems: the religious soldiers need to understand that the army is not a yeshiva, but the people who complain about the growing presence of religious officers in the IDF should ask themselves why they aren’t sending their own sons to those units,” Stern said.

Rabbi Uri Regev, from Hiddush, an organization which promotes religious freedom and equality, called on Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz to establish an external committee to review the military’s relationship with religion.

“It will be unfortunate to involve the Supreme Court in questions relating to religion in the IDF, but there might be no choice if you don’t realize that this is a threat to democracy and freedom of religion in Israel,” Regev wrote in a letter to Barak and Gantz.

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