The Association for the Torah-Observant Soldier has submitted a complaint to the
state comptroller protesting the treatment of religious soldiers at the IDF’s
Officer Training School.
In a letter sent to the office of Micha
Lindenstrauss on Sunday morning, the association listed a series of events that
have occurred at the training school’s base in recent months which they say
illustrates a pattern of frequent infringement upon the religious rights of
observant Jewish soldiers.
A source within the IDF told The Jerusalem
on Monday that the claims “ridiculous.”
“These are old incidents
that have already been investigated by the commander of the Officers Training
Course, he said.
Referring to an incident in May 2011 that led to the
dismissal of two cadets from the IDF training course, the source said, “The
soldiers refused an order because of their personal opinions and, contrary to
what has been claimed by the cadets, their dismissal cannot be attributed to any
supposed failure by the IDF to abide by religious sensitivities.”
MK Ya’acov Katz, chairman of the National Union, accused the IDF of trying to
prevent national-religious soldiers from becoming officers.
“It will not
be possible to prevent the finest community in the country, the ultra- Orthodox
and the national-religious, from flooding into the IDF,” Katz said.
ongoing abuse toward soldiers wearing yarmulkas, which is caused by incitement
and jealousy, does not represent the friendly atmosphere within the IDF and will
only strengthen our youth who are the cream of the nation,” Katz
According to data from the IDF Manpower Directorate released
in November, 42 percent of cadets in the most recent training course were from
the national-religious sector.
Eliyahu Lax, the association’s chairman,
told the Post
on Monday that the organization was calling on the IDF to fire the
commander of the training school base.
In one incident which the
complaint details, two religious cadets at the training school were expelled for
disobeying orders and going to pray.
According to the Association for the
Torah-Observant Soldier, the chairman of which is the father of one of the
soldiers, the cadets were participating in a night-time orienteering exercise
with their Gefen Brigade (part of the Gaza Division). After completing the
exercise at 5:30 a.m., the cadets were informed that they would be woken up at
Three religious soldiers from the unit decided that they would
get up at 10:30 for the morning prayer service.
According to the claims,
the course staff, without informing the soldiers, then brought forward the
waking time to 10:30, to fit in an extra lesson, and when the soldiers woke up
and asked for time to pray, their commanders refused.
Two of the cadets
went to pray regardless of the instructions, before the mandated time for
morning prayers ended. They were subsequently brought before the expulsion
committee of the course, which dismissed them for disobeying
According to the IDF source who spoke with the Post, the soldiers
were told that the lesson would only last 20 minutes, after which they would be
given time to pray. The source added that there were 82 other religious soldiers
on the course who went to the lesson and prayed afterward.
an MK from the national-religious Bayit Hayehudi party, said on Monday that it
was unacceptable that the IDF should not allocate time for soldiers to
“Prayer can be pushed off only for war, operational duties or
emergencies,” Orlev said. “I am calling on the chief of staff and the head of
the IDF Manpower Directorate to change the atmosphere and create a more
accommodating environment to allow national-religious and haredi soldiers to
serve in combat units while preserving their religious
Eliyahu Lax, chairman of the Association for Religious
Solders, told the Post the organization was calling on the army to fire the
commander of the Officers Training Base, Col. Eran Niv.
point out, however, that after he turned to Niv, time for prayer has been
allocated, although Lax insisted that other problems relating to religious
sensitivities remain and that Orthodox soldiers at the Officers Training Base
feel that the commanders there are trying to force them to abandon their
The association’s complaint asks that the state
comptroller look into the matter and present suggestions for clearer definitions
of what constitutes orders, rights and obligations.
In September, four
cadets from the Officer’s Training School were expelled after they left, without
permission, a ceremony in which women were singing, something generally
prohibited by Jewish law.
The soldiers refused to return to the event
hall after being instructed to do so by their commanding officer.
incident created a national furor and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz
issued a directive in January that all soldiers, regardless of their religious
observance, were obligated to attend all official army events, even if they
include women singing.
Religious soldiers may, however, be exempted from
such events which are merely for entertainment.
The IDF Spokesman’s
Office said in response that “the events in question at the Officers Training
Course were investigated by the commander, lessons were learnt and guidelines
defining the rights of religious soldiers in relation to prayer times were
distributed to the entire team of commanders. Regarding the letter [from the
Association for Religious Soldiers], the office of the base commander has not
received it, nor has the office of the head of the IDF Manpower Directorate.
When it is received, it will be fully answered.”
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