'Men commanding women in IDF ‘contravenes Torah''

Hardline Rabbi Dov Lior tells students not take up positions in IDF where they would have to command women to protect modesty.

Mixed gender Unit in IDF_311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Mixed gender Unit in IDF_311
(photo credit: Reuters)
Leading religious-Zionist Rabbi Dov Lior told yeshiva students on Sunday they should not take up positions in the army in which they would need to be in command of female soldiers.
Lior was responding to a question from a student at the Nir hesder yeshiva in Kiryat Arba, who asked whether or not it was permissible according to Jewish law to command female soldiers. According to the website Kipa, Lior answered, “regarding the issue of modesty, it is for certain that commanding girls contravenes the Torah.”
Lior, the chief rabbi of Kiryat Arba and Hebron, was not available to clarify his remarks although a spokesman for him told The Jerusalem Post that “the rabbi was asked a halachic question and gave a halachic answer.”
Lior also returned to the topic of religious soldiers listening to women singing in the army, and reiterated his stance that they should exempt themselves from any such events.
“Find a good excuse in order to leave before the women sing,” he told a student, adding however “you don’t have to explain to anyone why you need to suddenly leave.”
Rabbi David Bigman, head of the religious-Zionist Yeshivat Ma’aleh Gilboa, disagreed with Lior’s ruling, but said that the issue is broader than the simply the gender concerns.
“There’s a growing trend in which we [the religious-Zionist community] are removing ourselves from general society, and it’s getting worse,” he said. “The general public want to have a connection with Jewish tradition and [the religious-Zionist community] can help bridge the divide, but not if we continue to distance ourselves from them.
“Those making halachic decisions must take into account the importance of contributing to Israeli society when they issue these rulings, in order to allow the religious community to participate in the daily life of the state.”
Hanna Kehat, director of the religious- feminist group Kolech, strongly condemned Lior’s comments.
“He’s teaching his students that women are basically sex objects and that’s the only way one can relate to them,” she said. “He’s saying that women aren’t people and is teaching his students to ignore their personality and their humanity.
“It’s essentially a pornographic characterization of women,” Kehat continued, “in that in this world view, men can only relate to women in a sexual manner. And it’s not as if these girls are serving in the army in swimsuits; they’re dressed modestly in army uniforms.”
Back in September, a group of nine religious cadets in the IDF officer’s course left a concert in which women were singing due to stipulations within Jewish law which forbid men listening to women sing in person. They refused to return to the concert when ordered to do so by their commander and four of the cadets were subsequently ejected from the course.
The Center for Instruction in Public Matters, which Lior heads, stated at the time that soldiers should treat any order that contravenes Jewish law as illegal and should “act accordingly.” In reference to the ongoing controversy of women singing in the army, Kehat said that rulings which instruct men to leave when female soldiers are singing causes public embarrassment to women which, she said, is a far graver infringement of Jewish law than listening to women sing.