Religious IDF soldier 311.
(photo credit: Reuters)
Several religious soldiers requested last week to wear earplugs or listen to MP3 players during a Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony in which women were singing, as well as for upcoming ceremonies for Remembrance Day and Independence Day.
The army refused the request but said that the soldiers could take a book of Psalms into the ceremony to read from if they wished.
The issue of religious soldiers being present in ceremonies with women singing exploded in September last year, when four soldiers were expelled from an officers course for refusing to return to an event in which women were singing.
The IDF General Staff subsequently issued a directive in January obligating all soldiers, religious or otherwise, to be present in all official army ceremonies even if they involve women singing.
Jewish law generally prohibits men from listening to a woman sing in person.
Initially reported by the Galei Israel radio station, the group of approximately 10 soldiers who requested to use earplugs or MP3 players are currently in basic training and are serving in a field intelligence unit.
The IDF confirmed the details of the story.
They enlisted within the hesder framework, through which national-religious men combine army service with yeshiva study.
The soldiers who made the request are from the Or Etzion Hesder Yeshiva, headed by Rabbi Haim Druckman, a prominent national-religious figure.
"The integration of different communities, while preserving their dignity, is an important and central value that guides IDF commanders and its soldiers," the IDF Spokesman said in response. In official events like the one under discussion, all soldiers must attend without exception, the statement continued, "It is important to emphasize that women singing is permitted and accepted in IDF ceremonies and events, although consideration of specific communities and the nature of the event is also taken into account."
Separately, leading national-religious Rabbi Dov Lior, municipal rabbi of Hebron and Kiryat Arba, ruled on Sunday that men should not attend theater performances in which women perform, even if the women do not sing and are dressed modestly.
According to Lior, who was writing in response to a question on the Yeshiva.org website, attending such events are not compatible with the Jewish concept of modesty.
Following the opening in September of a cultural center in Kiryat Arba, Lior said that only performances of educational merit or national values should be staged.