Chief Rabbinate, Rabbi Eliyahu reiterate opposition to religious women serving in army

Rabbinate reiterates position that enlistment of women contravenes Jewish law due to growing number of religious girls enlisting.

January 9, 2014 18:58
2 minute read.

Religious woman covering face behind bars. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)


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The Chief Rabbinate has reiterated its opposition to religious women serving in the army, following the initiative of Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu.

It emerged on Thursday that during a December meeting of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate, Eliyahu, who is strongly opposed to the enlistment of religious women, raised the issue and asked that the panel restate its position that women’s enlistment contravenes Jewish law.

This has been a longstanding position of the Chief Rabbinate, but the reiteration came due to the growing numbers of religious girls who are enlisting.

Eliyahu, who belongs to the conservative wing of the national-religious movement, has of late embarked on a strong campaign against religious girls serving in the army in light of that trend.

According to what The Jerusalem Post has learned, the Chief Rabbinate is particularly opposed to rabbis who promote enlistment for religious women, and the rabbinate’s preferred solution is for them to serve in the national service program, which many women from the national-religious sector do.

According to Army Radio, Eliyahu said during the meeting that the conscription of women was part of a plan designed to erase the Jewish character of the state.

Last month, he wrote a letter to the principals of national-religious girls’ schools, calling on them to oppose IDF service for religious girls.

“Military service brings the girls into encounters and situations that are not appropriate and that harm the sensitivities of religious girls, sometimes even physically,” he wrote at the time. “Military service is not fitting for a Jewish girl.”

Criticism of the Chief Rabbinate and Eliyahu came from several quarters on Thursday, with Hatnua MK Elazar Stern accusing them of being out of touch with Israeli society.

“Whenever rabbis come out against the increasing numbers of religious girls enlisting in the IDF, it just demonstrates their standing and their [lack of] connection to Israeli society and its true challenges,” he said.

Beit Hillel, a moderate national-religious association of rabbis, said that the “war being waged by rabbis against the increasing number of religious girls enlisting simply reduces their relevance to the girls.”

The organization added that “instead of fighting against them, rabbis should educate them to [perform] substantial service for the State of Israel and give them the direction and spiritual support, whether they decide to do the national service program or whether they decide to enlist in the IDF.”

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