Army won’t discriminate against women, vows chief IDF rabbi

Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef criticizes recent activity by haredi extremists in his weekly Torah lesson.

Mixed gender Unit in IDF_311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Mixed gender Unit in IDF_311
(photo credit: Reuters)
Chief IDF Rabbi Brig.-Gen. Rafi Peretz, along with dozens of other IDF rabbis met with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz for talks on “clarifying procedures” to prevent discrimination against women in the army.
“There is not, and will not be, any discrimination against women in the IDF. It is incumbent upon us, who know the importance of the dignity of women, to prevent this debate from entering our ranks,” said Peretz. Last September controversy erupted when nine religious soldiers on the IDF officers training course left an army event in which women were singing, due to religious objections.
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.
The incident sparked criticism from many national-religious rabbis, accusing the army of trying to force religious soldiers to act against their beliefs. Progressive and women’s groups in turn denounced the incident as an example of discrimination against women and the violation of equal rights.
Peretz highlighted the guidelines of the chief of staff in relation to events in which women sing, according to which soldiers must be present in any official IDF ceremony, regardless of whether women will be signing or not. In less formal ceremonies, discretion is granted to officers to exempt soldiers wishing to absent themselves.
After the controversy broke out, Peretz expressed support for a solution in which religious soldiers could be exempted on religious grounds from such events.
During Sunday’s meeting, Peretz said IDF rabbis were obligated to prevent discrimination against women in the army as part of the broader obligation to preserve military unity.
“The order of the day is love of one’s fellow and unity of the ranks,” he said. “This is the most important command at the moment, as I see it.”
On Saturday night, Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef criticized recent activity by haredi (ultra- Orthodox) extremists in his weekly Torah lesson.
“There are some haredim that are doing things that are forbidden, that our Torah forbids us from doing and there is a need to denounce them,” Yosef said.
“The behavior of a few are spreading hatred between the haredi and non haredi-communities and this is a desecration of God’s name,” Yosef continued. “We don’t hate secular people, we love them... We are all one people, and we need to bring others close, not distance them.”