A woman combat soldier poses near the northern border a year ago during a joint exercise involving artillery, infantry and armored brigades.
(photo credit: EDEN BRIAND/IDF)
Several religious soldiers have reportedly refused to join a tank commanders course scheduled to begin this month because they objected to the presence of women in the course.
The incident comes as severe strains between some National Religious leaders and the army over mixed gender-service in the IDF have led to some rabbis telling students not to enlist in the armed services.
According to a report on Army Radio on Wednesday, a number of religious soldiers from the 188th Armored Brigade decided not to join the commanders training course after they learned that female soldiers would also be participating, something they said would harm their religious sensitivities.
The IDF has for the last 18 months been evaluating the possibility of integrating women into combat tank units for border defense duties, as well as opening the tank commanders course to women.
The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit told The Jerusalem Post
it was not familiar with the incident, but said the commanders course in question was gender separate and that women and men would not be training together.
The Association of Hesder Yeshivas, through which many religious men enlist and serve in the army, also issued a statement saying it was not aware of the incident, but insisted the course in question had been created in coordination with the IDF’s chief rabbi.
The organization added an implicit criticism of the soldiers, saying it “supports the IDF chief rabbinate and the IDF chief rabbi as the statutory authority on Jewish law within the army.”
The moderate National Religious organization Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah said the refusal of soldiers to join the course might be the result of a vociferous campaign by conservative members of the community against mixed gender-service and the integration of women into some combat units.
The organization also pointed the finger at the National Religious education system “which flees from all coping [with non-religious society] and creates a situation in which a religious person is not able to observe the Torah and commandments in the [outside] world.”
In January, prominent conservative National Religious leader Rabbi Shlomo Aviner said National Religious yeshiva students should not enlist in the IDF because it was impossible to avoid serving with women.
Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu – who said the IDF chief of staff should be fired for advancing the integration of women into combat units – supported him in his statement.