In the world of Rabbis such as Aviner and Eliahu, any progression in society, any advancement towards equal opportunities and anything that in their eyes could potentially empower their followers is something to fear. Thats why when they see women in powerful positions such as a Lieutenant-Colonel Airforce Squadron Commander, they become scared. At that point, they begin using religion as a tool for advancing their own personal power hunger
Thus, for example, last year, when the Religious Education Administration published a draft budget for organizations that encourage the enlistment of religious girls, several rabbis issued an aggressive petition under the heading "National service - a priori” in which they argued that "religious girls should refrain from military service”, they also presented this as "the position of religious Zionism." Nevertheless, in recent years, there has been a sharp increase in the number of religious female IDF recruits so much that the number doubled between 2014 and 2015.
This group of inciters, that MK Stav Shaffir accurately called “Dinosaurs”, are shaking with fear because these developments threaten their deterrence. If in the past, power-hungry Rabbis could tell any woman what to do and what not to do because women in their circles were denied equal opportunities and social norms dictated their subordination, today, the situation is not so and they have to invent distorted moral-religious orders to insure they stay in power.
When Rabbi Eliahu orders to “fire the Chief of Staff”, he’s essentially saying that anyone who does not agree to enforce his religious standards on the whole army is not fit to hold the oh so important position of Chief of Staff. In other words, his ego must be placed at the hight of our national agenda. We, as a society that depends on our army on regular basis and whose national identity is very much rooted in the idea of most citizens serving, cannot accept this. Security has always been above all and must continue to be so, and that goes for both ends of this argument. In other words, we must be willing to violate Shabbat to protect the state, but in parallel to that, we can never compromise security and give women positions they cannot fill. We should open up every position we can to them including squadron commander and the multitude of others out there. We should do this not only because everyone deserves’s equal opportunities but also because it is ineffective for the army to not make use of all its recruits. Moreover, doing so is also an important component to preventing the next Ofek Buchris case.
The army has always made a great effort to enable religious soldiers to maintain their way of life even within the military framework. Whether it was by establishing separate battalions for the Ultra-Orthodox, or granting permission to religious guys to serve in the army through Hesder Yeshivot, or even by allowing every religious soldier the right to choose not to serve in one of the mixed combat units.
Given that religious leaders have always permitted violating Shabbat (a direct biblical commandment which the religious punishment for is death) for the sake of security, it seems absurd for them to tell a soldier to refuse to serve (and even to refuse o enlist in the first place) because the service might be around women from time to time. Additionally, if these rabbis really believe that a soldier cannot do his job properly simply because there happens to be woman around him, it seems that some serious introspection is overdue with regard to the education and tools to cope with reality that they are giving these young Israelis.
This phenomenon is not new to the world. Power hungry people have always used religion as a tool for self-empowerment. Even so, it is especially sad to see our tradition being hijacked by an extremist group and used as a tool of incitement and discrimination. For this group, when it comes to maintaining their power, The end justifies the means and all means are Kosher. The same people who are supposed to be our role models, the peak of morality, are revealed time and again as being guided by only personal interest and even worse, willing to incite the public to achieve this interest.
In light of these recent events, it is important that the moderate, religious and Zionist public not stay silent. That's why I, along with thousands of other teenagers and military service candidates signed a letter in which we commit to enlisting in the army, making our service meaningful, and ask that these positions not be eliminated for anyone, especially not because of a small group of megalomaniacs.
Thankfully, most of the Israeli public has said and will continue to declare that it is unwilling to compromise on the unity of the army and the people. One can only hope that the limited groups of followers surrounding these Rabbis will recognize the misguided motives of their leaders and force them to stop usurping religion for their own despotic needs.