Women in the IDF.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A meeting between Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef and IDF Chief Rabbi Eyal Karim that was scheduled for Monday was canceled by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman due to Yosef’s comments against women serving in the IDF.
Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu made the comments last week strongly criticizing the IDF’s joint service protocol, which he and other conservative National Religious rabbis say forces men to serve with women in inappropriate situations for religious men, and called for the IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot to be fired.
Yosef then called Eliyahu and gave him his full support, leading to a sharp response from Liberman who banned Eliyahu and Yosef from IDF events and, apparently, meeting with IDF officials.
A spokesman for Liberman confirmed to The Jerusalem Post
that the meeting was canceled on his orders because of Yosef’s comments about women in the IDF.
Bayit Yehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich condemned Liberman for his intervention, describing it as “severe” and “seemingly illegal,” since the IDF chief rabbi is a member of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate and therefore entitled to attend meetings of the council together with Yosef.
“The politics of the defense minister and the orders of the IDF chief of staff do not overrule the law,” added Smotrich, calling on Eisenkot “to regain his composure.”
Eliyahu’s comments were made in defense of Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, who ruled last week that yeshiva students should not enlist to the IDF for the meantime until they are able to guarantee that they will not serve in a unit with women.
One of the most serious claims made by conservative national-rabbis regarding the new joint service protocol is that religious soldiers, officers and NCOs will not necessarily be able to refuse service in mixed-gender combat units.
However, the clause pertaining to this issue states explicitly that any officer or NCO who is placed in a mixed-gender combat unit has the right to appeal this decision to the head of the IDF Manpower Directorate, whose decision should be based on the opinion of the IDF Chief Rabbi “and consideration for the faith of the officer or NCO.”
This issue remains, however, one of the major points of opposition, and perhaps confusion for the hardline rabbis. In Aviner’s ruling last week, he wrote that it is impossible for even an enlisted soldier to ensure he does not get placed in a mixed gender combat unit.
Despite this claim, the joint service protocol states explicitly that mixed-gender combat units must have tracks for gender-separate training and service at the company level for religious soldiers who do not want to serve in the mixed gender track.
It also notes that all sleeping and living quarters must be gender separate and clearly defines how such arrangements must be implemented.