200 National-Religious rabbis denounce IDF over 'liberal agenda'

The rabbis oppose religious men serving in close quarters to women, seeing it as contravening a religious lifestyle and even as endangering their religious identity.

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March 27, 2018 18:38
2 minute read.
200 National-Religious rabbis denounce IDF over 'liberal agenda'

IDF soldiers take part in battlefield maneuvers in preparation with potential war in the north.. (photo credit: IDF)

In the latest round of the struggle of National Religious rabbis against certain IDF policies, some 200 rabbis signed a letter denouncing the army over issues such as mixed gender service and gave tacit backing to refusing orders which they do not feel are commensurate with religious values.

A recent, updated protocol issued by the IDF which seeks to integrate women further into combat units has become a point of severe contention between the rabbinic leadership of the conservative wing of the National Religious movement and the army, and has led to increasing tensions between the two sides over the last two years.

The rabbis oppose religious men serving in close quarters to women, seeing it as contravening a religious lifestyle and even as endangering their religious identity.

The leading signatories of the letter, Rabbis Tzvi Tau, Dov Lior and Haim Shteiner, are all from the hard-line, conservative sector of the National Religious community, but others, including Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Aryeh Stern, are from the mainstream, including municipal chief rabbis, yeshiva deans and educators, and rabbis from other institutions The rabbis wrote that they were “seeking to warn that in recent times, our beloved army is advancing extremist liberal cultural perspectives which are coming at the expense of the central purpose of the IDF, helping Israel against the enemy and our hold on our holy land, and is harming the holiness of the camp and the unity of the people.”

In particular they singled out “new educational efforts for IDF officers,” referring to programs for officers run by external, pluralistic organizations, “the mixed-gender service protocol” and “efforts to make it harder for religious girls to get an exemption from army service and to convince them to perform military service instead of national service.”

This last item refers to efforts by the Defense Ministry to stop the abuse of the exemption from military service for religious women by nonreligious women who pretend to be religious.

Although the army is not seeking to stop genuinely religious women from obtaining the exemption, some National Religious rabbis, together with extremist haredi elements, have seen this as a threat.

“In light of this, we seek to support our students and all IDF soldiers wherever they are to stand with determination and self-sacrifice for their ethical, humanitarian and halachic obligations in everything to do with mixing of the sexes and the holiness of the camp, wherever they come upon a demand which is not legitimate and not ethical,” they wrote.

“Disagreement with activities that are forbidden by our Torah, and are also in opposition to all healthy, human logic of behavior within an army framework, will prevent the IDF from descending into an ethical and human nadir,” the rabbis wrote.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit did not respond to a request for comment.


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