moshe gafni 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
MK Moshe Gafni of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism faction explained the
reasoning behind his opposition to haredi enlistment in the army during an Army
Radio interview on Wednesday.
“The decision to force soldiers to listen
to women singing represents a mistake by the army. I very much hope it will be
rectified,” Gafni said.
Gafni calls on ultra-Orthodox not to enlist in IDF
Gantz: IDF does not restrict women's singing
“Why are they now forcing things on haredim? We
didn’t request that female singers stop singing, only that [religious soldiers]
should be able to leave quietly.”
All that is being requested, Gafni
continued, is that those who observe Jewish law be permitted to live their lives
in the army according to their beliefs.
In an interview on Tuesday with
Radio Kol Hai, Gafni said that in light of “recent decisions taken by the
General Staff,” he would no longer recommend that haredi men enlist in the
army’s Shahar program for ultra-Orthodox men, saying that it is now
“In the past, I would have said [to a soldier enlisting in
the army’s haredi program], ‘Great, good luck to you.’ Today, I say, ‘Don’t
enlist, because their intention is to change you into a different person,” he
stated. “The IDF has failed in its integration of haredim.”
response to an inquiry from The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday regarding whether
Shahar soldiers are required to attend ceremonies that feature women’s singing,
the IDF Spokesman’s Office said, “There is no decision to change the unique
arrangements that were established in order to enable haredim to serve in the
IDF, contrary to various commentaries made in recent days.”
program is a one-and-a-half to two-year IDF track, designed to draft haredi
recruits into the army while allowing them to maintain their ultra-Orthodox
Within Shahar, recruits are provided with technical training
that qualifies them for positions in several branches of the army and assists
them in finding employment after their service is completed.
comments follow the army’s recent decision that religious soldiers will not be
permitted to excuse themselves or leave official IDF ceremonies if women are
singing. Jewish law prohibits men from hearing women sing in
This issue erupted in September when, due to religious
objections, nine religious soldiers in the IDF officers’ training course left an
army event in which women were singing.
They refused to return to the
performance when instructed to do so by their commanding officer, and four of
the cadets were subsequently expelled from the course.
While not backing
Gafni’s call, Shahar Ilan, the vice president of the Hiddush religious freedom
organization, did say that by raising the issue Gafni is “doing a favor” to the
cause of ultra-Orthodox recruitment in the army.
confrontation [with religious soldiers] which the IDF has provoked is
unnecessary and has endangered the enlistment of the ultra-Orthodox in the
army,” Ilan said, referring also to the recent public disagreement between the
founder of the Shahar program, Rabbi Moshe Raavad, and the IDF on related
“Gafni’s words should serve as a warning as to the seriousness of
the problem and the urgency with which a solution must be found.”
added that he had received numerous calls in the last two weeks from the
ultra-Orthodox community asking him why the army is seemingly working to destroy
“Shahar is the basis on which a new, more moderate haredi
community is being built,” Ilan continued, citing the statistic that more than
90 percent of soldiers who served in the program were now employed. “We must not
let it fail.”
However, MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima) – the chairman of the
Knesset working group on implementation of the Tal Law, which is designed to
increase the number of ultra-Orthodox men enlisting in the IDF – condemned
Gafni’s comments as “cynical,” “irresponsible” and designed to “exploit recent
events in order to further his worldview opposing drafting haredim into the
Plesner also claimed that in hearings he held with the Knesset
Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, no change to the terms of service of
ultra-Orthodox soldiers in the Shahar program had been mentioned at
“There is no connection between the debate on women singing and the
Shahar program,” Plesner said in a statement to Post. “Any attempt to connect
the two issues is irresponsible and unnecessarily endangers the continuation of
the Shahar program.”
In 2011, 500 soldiers entered the program, with
approximately 800 in active service. In total, 2,000 haredi soldiers have
enlisted in the Shahar framework in the past four years.