Mixed gender Unit in IDF_311.
(photo credit: Reuters)
Leading religious-Zionist Rabbi Dov Lior told yeshiva students on Sunday they
should not take up positions in the army in which they would need to be in
command of female soldiers.
Lior was responding to a question from a
student at the Nir hesder yeshiva in Kiryat Arba, who asked whether or not it
was permissible according to Jewish law to command female soldiers. According to
the website Kipa, Lior answered, “regarding the issue of modesty, it is for
certain that commanding girls contravenes the Torah.”
Lior, the chief
rabbi of Kiryat Arba and Hebron, was not available to clarify his remarks
although a spokesman for him told The Jerusalem Post that “the rabbi was asked a
halachic question and gave a halachic answer.”
Lior also returned to the
topic of religious soldiers listening to women singing in the army, and
reiterated his stance that they should exempt themselves from any such
“Find a good excuse in order to leave before the women sing,” he
told a student, adding however “you don’t have to explain to anyone why you need
to suddenly leave.”
Rabbi David Bigman, head of the religious-Zionist
Yeshivat Ma’aleh Gilboa, disagreed with Lior’s ruling, but said that the issue
is broader than the simply the gender concerns.
“There’s a growing trend
in which we [the religious-Zionist community] are removing ourselves from
general society, and it’s getting worse,” he said. “The general public want to
have a connection with Jewish tradition and [the religious-Zionist community]
can help bridge the divide, but not if we continue to distance ourselves from
“Those making halachic decisions must take into account the
importance of contributing to Israeli society when they issue these rulings, in
order to allow the religious community to participate in the daily life of the
Hanna Kehat, director of the religious- feminist group Kolech,
strongly condemned Lior’s comments.
“He’s teaching his students that
women are basically sex objects and that’s the only way one can relate to them,”
she said. “He’s saying that women aren’t people and is teaching his students to
ignore their personality and their humanity.
“It’s essentially a
pornographic characterization of women,” Kehat continued, “in that in this world
view, men can only relate to women in a sexual manner. And it’s not as if these
girls are serving in the army in swimsuits; they’re dressed modestly in army
Back in September, a group of nine religious cadets in the IDF
officer’s course left a concert in which women were singing due to stipulations
within Jewish law which forbid men listening to women sing in person. They
refused to return to the concert when ordered to do so by their commander and
four of the cadets were subsequently ejected from the course.
for Instruction in Public Matters, which Lior heads, stated at the time that
soldiers should treat any order that contravenes Jewish law as illegal and
should “act accordingly.” In reference to the ongoing controversy of women
singing in the army, Kehat said that rulings which instruct men to leave when
female soldiers are singing causes public embarrassment to women which, she
said, is a far graver infringement of Jewish law than listening to women sing.