LETTERS: Readers weigh in on matter of women in combat units

I can understand a different viewpoint expressed so frequently – and in my opinion, appropriately – that men and women should have equal opportunities in all endeavors.

Letters (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
I was quite dismayed with the opinions expressed in your March 19 editorial “Comrades in arms,” concerning army service for men and women.
I am not referring to your view regarding Rabbi Yigal Levinstein of the Bnei David pre-military academy – most, if not all, of us are opposed to his remarks and he should be censured. Yet, the fact that a wide spectrum of the Orthodox leadership, from the most liberal to the more conservative, is not supportive of men and women serving in close quarters when in combat positions should be respected.
I can understand a different viewpoint expressed so frequently – and in my opinion, appropriately – that men and women should have equal opportunities in all endeavors.
But why can’t you also accept another viewpoint that specifically does not forbid women to serve, but asks the army to consider the religious sensitivities of those who feel the mixing of the sexes in certain circumstances is inappropriate? Your argument, that if this latter opinion had been in effect during the War of Independence we might not have won, is specious at best. How many soldiers, officers and religious men and women were in combat roles during that period, and how many do we have today? Incidentally, many of the officers, some quite senior, who are in our army today come from the Bnei David academy.
I found your editorial sad but predictable in calling for the resignation of one of the two directors of the Bnei David pre-military academy in Eli, Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, for his reprehensible remarks against women in the IDF, or, if he refuses to resign, for the suspension of funding to the academy.
On February 10, you published an editorial (“Free speech”) advocating freedom of speech even to those who express “outrageous” or “appalling” points of view, extending this right not only to the radical left-wing organization Breaking the Silence, but even to Holocaust deniers! In the case of Rabbi Levinstein, you employ a double standard.
Your editorial writer briefly acknowledges that Bnei David enjoys an excellent reputation.
Indeed, I should emphasize that Rabbi Eli Sadan, the other academy head, received last year’s Israel Prize for life achievement.
The more than 20 graduates who fell in battle or during their military service include such heroes as Emanuel Moreno, Roi Klein and Eliraz Peretz. Yet you demand that Rabbi Levinstein resign from his post as principal for having exercised his democratic right of freedom of speech to express his distasteful and inappropriate views, and that if he refuses to go, collective punishment must be taken against the academy.
A few question: How will the recent lowering of IDF training standards for the sake of the women soldiers help us win our wars? How will the new regulations denying highly motivated national-religious cadets with command abilities the right to become officers unless they participate in mixed-gender training help us win our wars? In what way will the abolishment of separate bathrooms for men and women soldiers in various IDF bases help us win our wars?
I agree with Education Minister Naftali Bennett arguing back at Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who called for a rabbi to resign for being against mixing women into male army units.
I understand that countries with a volunteer army can choose to mix units, as one might argue that no one is forced to enlist. For Israel, where there is a draft, the government has no right to force the entire draft-age to adapt to its standards, which apparently lack any qualms about mixed-gender sleeping quarters or, at times, bathroom facilities.
It is also no secret that officers sometimes take advantage of their rank – for example, to drop in on women recruits while changing or similar scenarios.
The government cannot force haredi or religious Zionists to compromise their religious values.
To do so would be very un-Jewish.
It is not only the religious who are concerned about male and female soldiers serving in a tank together. There are those of us who are not observant yet do not want our children put in the situation where they are in such close quarters.
If I am not observant, do I want my son or daughter to get into bed freely? Physically close quarters cause .
One cannot deny the physical attraction between males and females. The religious are not the only ones who do not want to see their children sexually free. I might not mind sexual activity when there is a close relationship, but just because they are put in a physically close environment?
Your editorial was detailed and insightful. However, referring to the Bnei David academy as being located in the “West Bank Orthodox settlement of Eli” suffers from two errors.
First, to the best of my knowledge, the term “Orthodox” is never used to describe religious proclivities in Israel. It is a Diaspora designation that enables Jews to describe their religious affiliation.
Second, Eli is located in Samaria. “West Bank” was the name given to the area by Jordan’s first King Abdullah when he illegally occupied it during our War of Independence. The name was used to differentiate the region from Jordan, an area that had been removed from the British Mandate for Palestine in 1922 by Winston Churchill.
These errors might seem trivial, but an Israeli newspaper should be careful to employ terminology that is consistent with our history and our identity.
Reader Robert Dublin (“Simply crazy,” Letters, March 16) declares that “a woman’s capacity to stand up to the rigors of the battlefield is as factitious as [his] ability to give birth.” He might be right about himself, but as for women on the battlefield, how does he know? Why not let them decide? Women’s endurance frequently outclasses that of men.
Women have often led the returning runners in the British SAS Brecon Beacons Endurance Run. The same could be the case for endurance in the IDF.
One of the many reasons the Germans lost the Second World War is thought to be Hitler’s emphasis on kinder, küche, kirche (children, kitchen, church) as the be-all and end-all of what was required from a good German woman.
Mr. Dublin sees Rabbi Yigal Levinstein as defending “the immutable words of our Torah.”
I see something different: rabbinical fear that religious women might break away from rabbinical control.
Women who want to fight will fight. Women who don’t, won’t.
CORRECTION There was an editing error in the March 20 letter from reader Darryl Pitt (“Confused indeed”).
The second paragraph should have said: “Ms. Phillips is the one who is confused. Trump is not an ally of the Jewish people, regardless of an intersection of agendas. In the larger picture, it simply cannot turn out well to be aligned with such a man.”
We regret the error.
CLARIFICATION The New York Times piece “Yes, your sleep schedule is making you sick” (Comment & Features, March 19) mentioned a quiz titled “What Kind of Sleeper are You?” The quiz is on the Times website and can be accessed at http://nyti.ms/2nsf- DEg. We apologize for any inconvenience.