Benny Gantz meets with chief rabbis

IDF Chief of General Staff tells rabbis he would reconsider the use of female singers at military ceremonies following dismal of four cadets.

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September 11, 2011 18:49
3 minute read.
Benny Gantz meets with chief rabbis

Benny Gantz meets with chief rabbis. (photo credit: IDF)

 
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Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger met with IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.- Gen. Benny Gantz on Sunday afternoon, in a traditional annual meeting ahead of the High Holy Days, and raised with him the matter of exempting religious male soldiers from events involving women singing.

According to Jewish law, men should not listen to women singing in person, an injunction known as kol isha.

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Talking at the Chief Rabbinate headquarters in the capital, the rabbis asked that unit commanders and officers be sensitive to the religious beliefs of Orthodox soldiers and allow them to absent themselves or leave such events in a respectful manner.

Gantz told the rabbis that he was reviewing the issue and would soon discuss it with the IDF Chief Rabbi Brig.-Gen. Rafi Peretz.

The topic was raised in light of an incident last week in which nine officer cadets left an army event involving a performance by female soldiers, and some subsequently refused to return after their unit commander ordered them to do so. Four of the soldiers were expelled from the Officers Training School – better known as Bahd 1 – after refusing to apologize for the incident.

Following Sunday’s meeting, the social freedom organization Yisrael Hofshit criticized the chief rabbis’ request and called on the Military Rabbinate to ensure that the army does not promote the “degradation and exclusion of women.”

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“IDF commanders fail to understand that giving legitimacy to the silencing of women is another step in the attempts of religious extremists to turn the State of Israel and the army into dark places in which women do not enjoy equal rights,” the organization said in a statement, adding that the chief rabbis’ demand was part of a broader radicalization of religious life in the country.

In response to the dismissal of the cadets, The Legal Forum for Eretz Yisrael, a group promoting Jewish religious and national rights, called on Sunday for the IDF to cancel the expulsion of the soldiers from the officers course, saying in a letter that religious soldiers have the right to excuse themselves from leisure activities that contravene their beliefs.

The forum called for the officers who ordered the dismissal to be prosecuted, saying that the decision was a “severe and unjustified injury to the freedom of religion of IDF soldiers,” and adding that if the cadets were not reinstated the forum would consider filing a petition with the High Court of Justice.

Gantz, Amar and Metzger also discussed the integration of women in the IDF and ways to minimize tensions arising from religiously observant soldiers serving in combat units with female soldiers. The Artillery Corps this year transferred two female soldiers from their unit due to the planned arrival of a group of yeshiva students.

Amar and Metzger also expressed concern regarding an incident last Wednesday in which military vehicles on an IDF base north of Ramallah were damaged in a “price tag” attack carried out, ostensibly, by extremist settlers after the IDF and Border Police demolished three illegally built homes in the Migron settlement outpost.

The rabbis told Gantz that “this is not the way of Jewish tradition and religion.”

Gantz presented the chief rabbis with two silver pomegranates, expressing his desire that these would be the only kind of rimonim (the Hebrew for both pomegranates and grenades) that the Jewish people would have to make use of in the coming year. In turn, the rabbis gave Gantz a shofar.

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