Piron says religious girls should not go to army but do National Service instead

Education minister's 2002 ruling relevant again after chief rabbinate reiterated position forbidding women to enlist in army.

IDF female officers 521 (photo credit: Courtesy IDF)
IDF female officers 521
(photo credit: Courtesy IDF)
Education Minister Rabbi Shai Piron has ruled in the past that women should not serve in the IDF.
His response to a question on the issue several years ago came to light following comments made by Yesh Atid chairman and Finance Minister Yair Lapid on Friday that Chief Rabbis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef should be fired after the Chief Rabbinate reiterated its position that it is forbidden according to Jewish law for women to enlist in the army.
Piron, No. 2 in Yesh Atid, who helped found the Orot Shaul hesder yeshiva in Petah Tikva and served there as a co-dean, gave the ruling in 2002 in an online response to a question by a religious girl who was asking for clarification on the issue after her teacher said that women should not go to the IDF.
The girl said she personally intended to go into the national service program for religious girls, but that she wanted to know in principle if IDF service for women was forbidden.
In response, Piron said that the main problem from a religious perspective was connected to contact between men and women in the army.
“I’m unaware of any arbiters of Jewish law who permit going to the army,” wrote Piron.
“The pressure, the unusual situation, is likely to create impure aspects from the meeting between boys and girls.... Just as we are aware of physical dangers, so too must we be sensitive to everything pertaining to spiritual dangers,” he continued. “Therefore it is incumbent upon you to do everything in order that you not find yourself in a risky situation and to refrain from service that is potentially dangerous.”
The exposure of Piron’s opinion on the matter generated considerable controversy in light of Lapid’s remarks, made on Friday on his Facebook page, that the chief rabbis should be fired following the restatement of its longstanding position that female enlistment in the army is prohibited by Jewish law.
“David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef are no longer worthy to serve in Israel as chief rabbis,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
“This is insolence and a national scandal, and we will work for their dismissal in the Knesset and in the government, and if necessary in the legal department as well,” the finance minister said.
Piron’s office said in response to the reports that the minister “believes there is no place for draft evasion, including among religious girls, and that in the light of the positions held by arbiters of Jewish law, they should fulfill their obligations to the state with the two-year service in the accepted national service program.”
He added that all Israeli youth without exception, male or female, “have the right and obligation to serve the state,” and that the attempt to “weaken the hands of those who serve, both men and women, is illegitimate and unnecessary.”
The Chief Rabbinate has opposed female enlistment since as far back as 1951, with concerns particularly for religious girls for whom it was feared that service in the army would reduce their level of religious observance.
According to data collected by Ne’emanei Torah Ve’avodah (NTA), a moderate national-religious organization, increasing numbers from the more prestigious ulpanot, Jewish girls high schools, are enlisting to the IDF instead of the national service program.
Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the chief rabbi of Safed and member of the Council of the Chief Rabbiante, has of late embarked on a strong campaign against religious girls serving in the army in response to this recent trend.
Eliyahu, from the conservative wing of the national religious movement, wrote a letter to the principals of ulpanot recently saying that “military service is not fitting for a Jewish girl.”
NTA said in response to the Chief Rabbinate’s statement that the enlistment of religious girls is a “broad ideological question” and that “many arbiters of Jewish law have recognized the fact that there is no one correct answer for everyone.”
NTA continued saying that the statement by the rabbinate “exposed once again the lack of relevance of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate in its current composition, and its disconnect from the public.”