Maximalist positions perpetuate an IDF conflict

A minor incident metastasized when religious and secular ignored the other’s needs & fears.

January 30, 2012 14:13
Female IDF soldiers at western wall

Female IDF soldiers at western wall. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)


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Some years ago, at the height of the second intifada, religious soldiers were ordered aboard a bus on Shabbat and sent to dismantle an illegal outpost. The soldiers obeyed, but afterward, they protested vociferously. The response was immediate: The prime minister, defense minister and chief of staff all apologized, stating unequivocally that the order had been wrong, and promised that it wouldn’t happen again. Army regulations allow soldiers to be asked to violate Shabbat only for essential military operations, and dismantling an outpost doesn’t qualify.

This story exemplifies what has been so sorely missing in the current battle over “religion versus women” in the Israel Defense Forces: a willingness on both sides to acknowledge that the other’s position has some validity. The soldiers in the outpost incident understood that they weren’t entitled to pick and choose which orders to obey, though they could seek to prevent a recurrence of orders they deemed problematic. The army brass and their civilian superiors understood that they weren’t entitled to abuse their coercive power by gratuitously violating soldiers’ religious beliefs.


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