A female IDF soldier shaking out a blanket during a week-long survival course for women in the infantry at an undisclosed location in Israel.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Knesset saluted female IDF soldiers on Tuesday, with a series of committee meetings and events, but the special day was accompanied by controversy over a refusal by Knesset Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women and Gender Equality chairwoman Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List) to have her committee take part.
Two weeks ago, MKs Merav Ben- Ari (Kulanu), Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Bayit Yehudi) and Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) wrote to Touma-Sliman asking her to have her committee hold a meeting in honor of the day dedicated to female IDF soldiers.
“This important subject, combining military, educational and welfare issues is appropriate for the Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women,” they wrote.
In light of Touma’s refusal to hold such meetings in the past, the three MKs offered that they replace her at the head of the panel for the duration of the discussion.
MK Anat Berko (Likud), who initiated the day in honor of female soldiers, first complained in April that Touma-Sliman refused to hold meetings relating to women in the IDF, unless they have to do with sexual harassment.
At the time, Touma-Sliman told The Jerusalem Post Berko did not send a request for a meeting in writing, adding that, “when MKs asked, I held meetings on topics I don’t understand like the mikve or agunot. MK Berko doesn’t come to the committee’s meetings, and suddenly she’s interested because she wants to clash with me...
maybe because my name is Aida and I’m on the Joint List.”
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However, as of Tuesday, Touma- Sliman did not respond to the request in writing from the other three MKs, and said in interviews that she will not hold a meeting about female IDF soldiers because they are “not on [her] agenda.”
Asked why she did not sign the other MKs’ letter, Berko said it should be “obvious” that Touma- Sliman is supposed to hold meetings about female soldiers in her committee, even without a request in writing.
Hundreds of female IDF soldiers and officers took part in the central event, titled “Women of Valor,” featured Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Supreme Court President Miriam Naor, and high-ranking women in the IDF.
Netanyahu said “the history of the Jewish People is full of female role models, as you are today. I am thrilled to see the professionalism, determination and ability of female soldiers in the air, land and sea and in every part of the IDF.”
The prime minister commended female soldiers and police officers who saved lives in recent terrorist attacks, including Hadar Cohen who was killed at the Damascus Gate last year.
Edelstein, who is Orthodox, called on religious-Zionist rabbis to stop discouraging women from enlisting in the IDF.
“You should do the opposite: Strengthen them, encourage them to serve the country in the most significant way that they choose, and give them your blessing.
Do not deny this beautiful reality, be proud of these girls, our soldiers,” he said.
In recent years, there has been a sharp increase in the amount of religious women choosing to serve in the IDF. Orthodox women can automatically receive an exemption, and many who attend religious- Zionist schools choose to do civilian service, instead.
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