'IDF religious won't hear women sing? Use earplugs'

Shas MK says he would put fingers in ear if females sang at Knesset; IDF Maj.-Gen. Barbivai says that commanders' authority comes before halacha.

December 14, 2011 16:16
2 minute read.
Rahamim Malol (L),Nissim Zeev (C) and Itzhak Saban

Rahamim Malol (L),Nissim Zeev (C) and Itzhak Saban (R), Shas. (photo credit: Reuters/Nir Elias)


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MK Nissim Ze’ev (Shas) came up with an interesting solution on Wednesday for Orthodox soldiers who do not want to hear women sing in the army: earplugs.

Speaking in a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting with the head of the IDF Manpower Directorate, Maj.-Gen. Orna Barbivai, Ze’ev said: “Whoever wants to hear will hear, whoever doesn’t want to won’t.”

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Opinion: Women’s battle

The Shas lawmaker said he asked Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar what he does at ceremonies where women sing, and Amar replied that he puts his fingers in his ears.

“Imagine if a female member of Knesset would start singing in a committee meeting – what would happen? I would have to leave,” Ze’ev explained.

MK Miri Regev (Likud), a former brigadier-general and IDF Spokeswoman, expressed outrage at Ze’ev’s remarks, saying that women should be allowed and encouraged to realize their potential.

“The age of ‘women in the kitchen’ is over,” she said.

Barbivai, who in June became the IDF’s first-ever female majorgeneral, said that no one is authorized to tell a female soldier not to sing, and that the IDF is currently expanding its bands, in which men and women sing and play instruments together. Religious soldiers will not be required to participate in entertainment activities in which women sing, but they will not be exempt from ceremonies, and female soldiers’ performances will not be limited.

A commander’s authority trumps all others, Barbivai explained, and the commander should use his judgment in a situation where a female soldier sings.

“We can’t expect the commander to lead his staff in the battlefield, but not here,” she said. “Halachic considerations must be congruent to commanders’ considerations.”

In the same committee meeting, Barbivai said that 25 percent of men and 42% of women do not enlist in the IDF.

Thirty-five percent of those women who do not enlist cite religious reasons.

The Manpower Directorate chief finds it “disgraceful” that nearly half of all women do not serve in the army, pointing out that 1,500 women pretend to be religious to avoid enlistment each year.

She also suggested that men and women should be treated equally in the IDF, and that the length of their service should be determined by their job, and not their gender.

MK Shaul Mofaz (Kadima), chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and a former defense minister and IDF chief of staff, pointed out that 92% of IDF jobs are now open to women, calling it a “great achievement.”

He called for priority to be given to women in a case where men and women are equally qualified for a post.

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