Rabbi: Better that soldiers face fire than hear women sing

Chief rabbi of Samaria region says if IDF requires religious soldiers to attend events where women sing, soldiers should leave, even if firing squad waiting.

ELYAKIM LEVANON (photo credit: Mati Wagner)
(photo credit: Mati Wagner)
If the IDF adopts a recommendation that obligates religious soldiers to attend events in which there are women singing, “rabbis would be forced to tell soldiers ‘you have to leave [such an event] even if there’s a firing squad waiting outside to kill you,’” the chief rabbi of Samaria and rabbi of the Elon Moreh settlement, Elyakim Levanon, said in a radio interview on Thursday afternoon.
Levanon comments followed a report in Yediot Aharonot that the committee established by the IDF to recommend policy on the issue of Orthodox soldiers having to listen to women sing at army ceremonies will recommend that soldiers be obligated to attend official events with female singers, despite religious objections.
According to Jewish law, it is forbidden for men to listen to a woman sing in person, as a women’s voice is considered akin to nakedness.
Levanon justified his remarks by arguing that the imposition of this regulation would constitute a period of explicit religious persecution, during which, according to Jewish law, a Jew must “die and not transgress,” even for a seemingly small aspect of Jewish law.
“Someone who does not know or understand Jewish law in time of coercion, does not know what hole he is getting himself into in a situation like this,” Levanon said in his interview on Radio Kol Hai on Thursday afternoon. “I really hope that there are some intelligent people who are going to prevent such a terrible step as this from being taken.
“And for what, for female singers, this is what the IDF takes a stance on? This will make a soldier better or worse?” he asked.
Levanon further claimed that should the recommendation be adopted, the IDF would no longer be a Jewish army and he would advise anyone who asks him that they should not enlist.
“We’re all subordinated to the Shulchan Aruch, to the Rambam and to the Gemara, haredi and religious-Zionist alike, and the moment there is religious coercion, Halacha doesn’t permit compromise on adherence to Jewish law,” he said.
Rabbi Yehuda Gilad, head of Yeshivat Maalei Gilboa and rabbi of Kibbutz Lavi, called Levanon’s comments “unfortunate” and said that the entire episode of women singing in the army was like a “conversation of the deaf.”
“On the one hand soldiers should not insist on leaving such events, but on the other they really shouldn’t be forced to stay, Gilad told The Jerusalem Post.
“From a liberal perspective, the rights of minorities should be protected and the army should be more sensitive to the beliefs of religious soldiers. At the same time, from a Torah perspective, if people are offended by such a stance then ‘kavod habriut’ [respect for others] should override this law and soldiers should not insist on not attending such events.”
Gilad also took issue with Levanon’s basic premise that obligating soldiers to stay at events with women singing constitutes a period of religious persecution, as defined by Jewish law.
“The concept of a period of religious persecution really doesn’t apply here,” he said. “If a foreign army is forcing Jews to convert, that’s a period of religious persecution. Comparing the IDF to the Roman army in this way, it’s completely unrealistic.”