A SOLDIER paints the face of a comrade..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Today young girls are taught that they can do and be anything. As they reach their final year in high school and evolve into young women, they need to choose their path in life. Soon after this, they are out in the real world. Now it’s our turn as parents, teachers and educators to put our trust in the values, tools and skills which we have provided them. However, it seems as if the National Religious education system refuses to trust its students, especially when they need to decide whether to serve in the National Service system or the IDF. Approximately 70% of religious high schools for girls refuse to allow organizations such as the Serving with Faith program by Aluma to so much as speak to the girls, much less offer them assistance and guidance while directing them toward a meaningful service in the IDF.
The official statement of the National Religious education system is that by directing girls to the National Service system, they are following the halachic instruction of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate. If, and only if, a student shows interest in serving in the army, is her high school supposed to direct her to Aluma. With more than 25% of the female students in religious high schools joining the army, it appears that the religious education system has decided to use drastic measures to steer more girls toward National Service. However, I believe this is all old news.
The National Religious education system never encouraged girls to serve in the IDF.
Girls had to hide the fact that they considered serving in the army. At times they even had to lie to their teachers as they gathered information and guidance in meetings off campus. Moreover, schools have been sending full classes together to declare in front of a rabbinical court (beit din) that they are religious and therefore cannot serve in the army (this is the legal procedure allowing a religious girl to be exempted from army service). Even the “latest development” of rabbinical court judges sent to schools to shorten the procedure of declaration is an old method. My colleague, Keren Hadad-Taub, who represented Kolech to the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, stated in a recent discussion of the committee that this also happened more than 20 years ago, when she was a high school student.
One of the most important skills we can teach children is how to choose the right thing for themselves. To do so, we must provide all the information so that these decisions are based on all the facts. After providing the skills and the facts, we need to let go and trust that we did our best for them.
So we put trust in the young women we raise. We trust them when they are off to National Service, taking care of endangered children, hospitalized patients, dealing with sensitive intelligence information or bearing a weapon. We even think they are old enough to get married. As such, we should be able to trust them to deal with a halachic, moral and national discussion surrounding the decision between serving in the army or doing national civic service.
We, as parents, trust them. Now it’s the turn of the education system. Schools must provide the girls with all the information and options from which to choose, including allowing presentations by Aluma and the various Women’s Torah Seminaries (midrashot), as well as presenting the options of National Service. Let them make their choices. They have reached the age of responsible decision.
The author is the spokeperson for Kolech – Religious Women’s Forum. She served in the IDF as an instructor.