Bayit Yehudi Knesset candidate says IDF not a place for women

The issue of women serving in the army has become a point of contention within the national religious community that Bayit Yehudi represents.

January 20, 2015 22:37
2 minute read.
Pray at the Western Wall.

A religious woman and a female soldier pray at the Western Wall.. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Knesset candidate Sarah Eliash, placed at number 17 on Bayit Yehudi’s electoral list, gave an interview one year ago in which she that the IDF was not a place for girls, arguing that the principles of modesty within Jewish tradition were infracted when women serve in the army, especially in mixed units.

Her comments were made to the Kol Acher student radio station at Ariel University last year and were highlighted by Army Radio on Tuesday.

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“There is room for placing girls in national service frameworks,” Eliash said in her interview last year. “I think that the IDF is not a fitting framework for women, I would not recommend that girls to be in it [the army],” she said however.

“There are places in the army, especially in combat [units], where the mixing of men and women is really problematic. To put men and women together in one salad, I think that there is no way the laws of modesty will not be impacted.”

The issue of women serving in the army has become a point of contention within the national religious community that Bayit Yehudi represents.

There has been a campaign of late led by some of the sector’s more hardline rabbis against national-religious girls joining the army, who have argued that life in the army is not commensurate with the sensitivities and values of religious girls.

The municipal chief rabbi of Safed, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, has in particular been active in opposing increasing numbers of religious women joining the army instead of serving in national service programs as many national religious girls do.

At the beginning of 2014, Eliyahu wrote a letter to the principals of national-religious girls’ schools, calling on them to oppose IDF service for religious girls.

“Military service brings the girls into encounters and situations that are not appropriate and that harm the sensitivities of religious girls, sometimes even physically,” he wrote at the time. “Military service is not fitting for a Jewish girl.”

Eliash is herself a principal of a religious girls high school and said that she had expressed her opinions on women serving to her students.

“Ulpana [high-school for religious girls] is a conversation, but it is not a conversation that encourages army. The same things I have said to you I said at the ulpana. It is legitimate in my eyes that an ulpana has a clear educational line, and it is not pluralistic,” she said during last year’s interview.

In response to the airing of her interview, Eliash said that she was “happy and proud of every girl who decides to volunteer her capabilities for the sake of the Jewish people,” but stood by her previous comments on the issue regardless of whether the women in question were religious or not.

“No-one can preach feminism upon me. My entire life has been dedicated to public service including female empowerment, and I understand feminism and women’s leadership in a different way. The clamorous and utter invalidation which negates any opinion that does not conform to 'sophisticated' feminism is ridiculous,” she added. 


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