'Don't force religious soldiers to hear female singing'

IDF must ensure that religious soldiers not put in compromising situation, says Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger in religious ruling.

yona metzger hat 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
yona metzger hat 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger issued on Monday a review of the Jewish laws surrounding the issue of men listening to women singing, in reference to the controversy which has erupted surrounding the dismissal of four cadets from the IDF officers’ course after refusing to return to an event in which women were singing.
“The right of religious soldiers to refrain from listening to women sing should be respected,” said Metzger in his statement to rabbis and community leaders throughout the country. “Surely it is not right or fitting to remove from them their status and rights simply as a result of their adherence to the Torah and its laws.”
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The incident in question occurred earlier this month.
Nine religious male officer cadets left an army event involving a concert by female soldiers and refused to return when instructed to do so by their unit commander. Of the nine, five cadets issued an apology and were allowed to rejoin their course while four refused to apologize and were expelled.
Metzger recommended that to prevent such incidents reoccurring, only men should sing at events in which there are a large number of religious soldiers.
“Where religious soldiers are in the minority and the commander decides to invite a female band, he should inform the observant soldiers, consult with the unit’s rabbi and permit them to arrive late to the event or leave early, in a manner which won’t affect the event.
“For example, it could be arranged for the religious soldiers to sit at the back of the hall, and not to leave en masse but one by one in order not to offend the members of the band and so as not to cause unnecessary arguments.”
On Sunday, IDF Chief Rabbi Brig.-Gen. Rafi Peretz also expressed support for the cadets stating at a conference at Sha’arei Mishpat College in Ra’anana.
“I stood up for the cadets. It was not coincidental that a number of them were not expelled from the officers’ course... I was with the commanders for hours because the issue is complicated.”
Peretz added that he was working hard to find a solution which would injure neither the army nor halacha, but that it would take more time to resolve.
Kolech, a forum for religious women, criticized Metzger’s ruling, saying it was “astounded” by his decision. “The chief rabbi of the State of Israel cannot be just the rabbi of men and arrive at the conclusion that women cannot express their voices in ceremonies in which the general public participate...There is nothing in Jewish law that forbids women from singing in respectable ceremonies which do not include content of a sexual or immoral nature.”
Batya Kehana Dror, director of the women’s rights organization Mavoi Satum, stated, however, that although it pains her that the religious community refuses to listen to women singing, it is in the national interest that the army allows soldiers to act according to their beliefs and conscience, especially regarding matters not related to security or which are not life-threatening.
“We do not have the privilege of waging these wars within the army while expecting to draft thousands of haredi soldiers. This incident could reverse the achievements made in the last decade regarding haredi enlistment,” she said, adding that although it is crucial that the voice of women be heard in all public platforms, education towards this end cannot start in the army.