The Female Combatants Forum has released a video and started an online petition demanding the government fire rabbis who incite against the integration of women in combat positions in the IDF.
The video released by the forum titled “This is what they think of us,” shows former and current female combat soldiers from the IDF’s mixed gender battalions reading incendiary statements and called on the government to fire IDF Chief Rabbi Col. Eyal Karim as well as leading Religious Zionist rabbis Rabbi Yosef Kelner and Rabbi Yigal Levenstein from the Eli pre-military academy.
“We call upon the rabbis quoted in the video to immediately apologize for their degrading and humiliating attacks on women and IDF soldiers,” the petition said. “We call on those in charge of their employment to remove them from office immediately.
Freedom of speech does not justify the freedom of incitement. Women stop being silent!”
The video, by the forum, which represents 200 former female combat soldiers, was shortly uploaded after the IDF removed a video by the Israel Air Force for International Women’s Day after pressure by religious groups who called it “provocative.”
According to the IDF’s Spokesperson’s Unit, the video titled “The air force’s answer to chauvinism” – which shows female soldiers in a variety of roles in the air force was removed because it had not been officially approved before it was uploaded.
The video has a voiceover by female soldiers repeating the frequent claims by rabbis in the religious Zionist movement such as that they have no physical strength or that they need to look over their children.
The army’s efforts to increase female combat soldiers has been criticized by several leading rabbis, including the IDF’s Chief Rabbi Col. Eyal Karim who before he was appointed stated that women serving in combat positions could “damage them and the country due to loss of morality.”
In March, Levenstein denounced female military service saying that religious women lose their religious values in the army and that no one would marry female combat soldiers. “What if there will be a female commander of a company? It’s an insane question; it’s fit for the madhouse. They have made our daughters crazy; they’re drafting them into the army,” he said. “They enter as Jews, [but] they’re not Jews by the end... Not in the genetic sense, [but] their entire value system has become confused, their priorities – the home, a career. They’re driving all of them [religious women] crazy. We cannot agree to this.”
His comments were quickly denounced by both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman who stated that he would reevaluate Levenstein’s status and his “suitability for preparing youths for IDF service.”
While Levenstein later apologized for the manner in which he expressed himself, he stated that he would continue to oppose the “serious cultural changes in the IDF and its serious, feminist agenda.”
More recently Safed Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu called for the dismissal of IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, warning that there was a “war brewing” over the issue.
Eisenkot said the IDF has only one agenda, and that is to be strong and victorious in war. As such, he stated, the IDF will continue to offer combat positions to women.
About 90% of the positions in the IDF are also now open to women and according to IDF figures, 38 percent of female recruits have asked to be evaluated for combat service with some 2,500 women serving in combat roles in the military in 2017.