Female IDF soldiers at western wall.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The IDF appreciates the value of female soldiers and does not exclude women,
Head of the IDF Manpower Directorate Maj.-Gen. Orna Barbivai told the
Knesset Committee on the Status of Women on Monday. Meanwhile, MK Nachman Shai
(Kadima) drafted a bill that would make discrimination against women a
RELATED:Gantz: IDF does not restrict women from singing 'IDF religious won't hear women sing? Use earplugs'
A recent incident in which religious soldiers walked out of an IDF
ceremony because a female soldier was singing overshadowed the meeting, which
was held so Barbivai could provide a general overview of women in the
Although committee chairwoman MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) asked those
in attendance to examine a wide range of IDF women’s issues, MKs and
representatives of feminist NGOs interrupted Barbivai’s presentation, demanding
that she discuss the singing issue and whether the IDF would cater to religious
In response, Barbivai echoed IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny
Gantz’s statements from earlier on Tuesday that women will not be banned from
singing in IDF activities.
At the same time, religious soldiers will only
be required to be present when females sing if it is during official
MK Orit Zuarets (Kadima) expressed outrage at the IDF policy,
saying that secular soldiers should also be able to opt out of entertainment
MK Nissim Ze’ev (Shas) said that differentiating between
official ceremonies and entertainment is a step in the right direction, and that
religious soldiers should be allowed to serve in units and bases that are free
of women if that is their choice.
He reiterated his suggestion,
originally presented at a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting
last week, that religious soldiers be permitted to wear earplugs if they are
required to be present when women sing.
MK Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi)
quipped that it would save everyone a lot of trouble if some people would plug
MK Rachel Adatto (Kadima) said that Orthodox soldiers should be exempt
from hearing women sing only if secular soldiers could opt out of hearing
lectures by religious figures.
The Chief of the General Staff’s Women’s
Affairs advisor, Brig.- Gen. Gila Kalifi, explained that yeshiva students in the
IDF train together and serve in homogeneous units, but come into contact with
secular soldiers throughout their service, which causes friction at
Kalifi added that the IDF seeks to respect the yeshiva students’
needs, and encourages them to enlist.
Also on Wednesday, MK Nachman Shai
(Kadima) proposed a bill making the exclusion of women a criminal offense that
would carry a sentence of some years in prison.
The bill defines the
exclusion of women as “revelations of hatred, oppression, humiliation,
debasement, hostility or violence, or causing altercations directed towards
women only because they are women.” Anyone who “publicizes, incites, preaches or
encourages” such discrimination against women would face three years in prison
should the bill pass.
Shai stated that now is the time to take action
against the widespread discrimination, adding that society cannot ignore the
continuing harm to women, their selfimage and their freedoms.
that he hopes the legislation will deter those who humiliate and disrespect
The Knesset’s weekly newsletter on the Torah portion also focused
on women’s rights, with Deputy Finance Minister Yitzhak Cohen stating that
Jewish tradition respects women.
“Even those who believe that they are
right cannot violently force their faith on their surroundings,” Cohen wrote.
“Even if some people think that a woman passing on the street or sitting on the
front of the bus opposes their faith, they cannot expect the public to bow its
head to this belief.”
The Shas MK wrote that Hanukka is a holiday that
glorifies women, who are supposed to be treated especially well during its eight
He brought the example of Judith, daughter of the High Priest
Yohanan, who in the time of the Hanukka story killed a Greek
Because of Judith, Cohen explained, there is a halacha (Jewish
law) that women should rest while Hanukka candles are burning, to demonstrate
their participation in the holiday’s miracles.