Rabbis back soldiers who boycotted female teachers

Petition authored by former chief rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu calls on IDF to stop coercing religious soldiers to take part in coed settings.

idf women 88 (photo credit: )
idf women 88
(photo credit: )
The arrest last week of four hesder yeshiva soldiers who refused to participate in a lecture given by female IDF instructors has sparked a sharp reaction by a group of leading religious Zionist rabbis. On Sunday, a petition authored by former chief rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu and signed by Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Arba-Hebron Dov Lior, Beit El Rabbi Zalman Malmad, Chief Rabbi of Safed Shmuel Eliyahu, Rabbi Abraham Zukerman and Rabbi Israel Rosen, called on the IDF to stop coercing religious soldiers to take part in coed settings. A spokesman for the soldiers' Har Bracha Yeshiva warned that should the military insist on ignoring the religious public's halachic needs, "many may decide to take more radical action and follow their haredi brethren in not joining the army at all." Meanwhile, heads of the more moderate pre-military academies (mechinot) were conspicuously absent from the petition. Rabbis such as Eli Sadan of Eli and Rafi Peretz of Atzmona, who also oppose the mixing of male and female soldiers, have taken a more diplomatic approach, hoping to influence IDF policy via private conversations with high-ranking IDF officers. Heads of the premilitary academies, in an attempt to sidestep the delicate religious issues, are also trying to convince the IDF brass that purely tactical considerations should rule out the integration of females with male soldiers. The petition, signed by 32 prominent religious figures, called on Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to "refrain from forcing any soldier to take part in activities involving women or attending classes given by female instructors." Religious soldiers see their military service as the fulfillment of a divine commandment, but for some of the more fervently religious that commandment sometimes comes into conflict with religious teachings. They fear that contact with female soldiers might elicit sexual fantasies and could lead to illicit relations.