Eisenkott ‘attentive’ to rabbis requests to change IDF mixed-gender protocol

Some six months ago, the IDF issued a new protocol on mixed-gender service, which encouraged the formation of such units.

March 23, 2017 19:21
1 minute read.
Gadi Eisenkot

IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot . (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Leading rabbis from the National-Religious community reportedly found IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot attentive and sympathetic to their requests they made in a meeting on Wednesday to change a new protocol on mixed-gender service in the army.

Some six months ago, the IDF issued the protocol on mixed-gender service that encouraged the formation of such units; said religious officers and NCOs would not necessarily be allowed to refuse serving in them; and that religious soldiers would not automatically be exempted from IDF leisure activities which run contrary to their lifestyle.

The protocol generated fierce opposition from National-Religious leaders who argued that shared living and the close proximity of men to women was prohibited by Jewish law and would therefore create problems for religious soldiers.

According to Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan, who was at the meeting, the rabbis particularly emphasized concerns about religious officers being able to not serve in mixed units and about the IDF’s overarching goal of creating such units.

Ben-Dahan said the chief of staff “listened patiently” and attentively to their requests during the three-hour discussion, and in particular, agreed that religious officers should be able to insist on not serving in such units.

He also said Eisenkot agreed that religious soldiers should be able to not attend leisure activities which contravene their lifestyle.

Eisenkot reportedly said the overriding goal of the army was to be victorious on the field of battle and that gender equality was not more important than that goal.

He did say, however, that he would have to consider how the issue can be addressed in any changes to the protocol.

Ben-Dahan said the rabbis were satisfied with Eisenkot’s appreciation of their concerns, but were anxious for that sentiment to be expressed in a revised protocol.

Mixed-gender service has become a critical concern for the National-Religious leadership in recent months, with rabbis from even the community’s most liberal wing banning religious men from serving in mixed gender combat units.

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