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Female soldier, Lotem Stapleton, a physical education officer, demonstrates a move during a training session in Krav Maga, an Israeli self-defense technique, at a military base in the Golan Heights March 1, 2017..(Photo by: NIR ELIAS / REUTERS)
IDF pushes back against commanders trying to enforce female modesty
Manpower Directorate Head warns practices "are in violations of army orders and policy"
The Israeli army is warning commanders to implement IDF policy of protecting the rights of female soldiers as reports that they are being excluded for religious reasons have increased in recent months.

“Such strict [practices] are in violation of army orders and policy, do unnecessary harm to wide-scale groups serving [in the army] and are inconsistent with the IDF commanders’ responsibility,” wrote the Head of the IDF’s Manpower Directorate Maj.-Gen. Moti Almoz.

Citing cases where female soldiers were banned from wearing white shirts in general and bathing suits in pool areas, the army’s top human resources officer stated that orders must be followed to the letter by commanders.

“In the wake of reports of a number of cases in which commanders decided to tighten the rules of appearance and clothing written in the orders – for example by prohibiting women soldiers from wearing a white shirt or prohibiting wearing bathing suits in pool areas, [this] unnecessarily hurt large groups of servicewomen,” wrote Almoz.

Almoz was referring to a recent “ban” on women wearing white shirts at the Shizafon training base in the South, which came after religious male soldiers said that the shirts would be see-through and therefore immodest.

“The orders regarding appearance, dress and the common service are binding orders, and they must be acted upon as they are written. No commander may decide on his own to harshen or lighten them,’ he said, stressing that the IDF is above politics.

“The IDF is the country’s army and our gates are open to all segments of Israeli society – secular and religious, women and men, ultra-Orthodox, minorities and volunteers.”

The managing director of the Israel Women’s Network, Michal Gera Margaliot, said in a recent Haaretz article that the “dozens of testimonies that have reached us at the hotline for female soldiers in the past year and a half attest to what we’ve known for a long time. Commanders in the field deviate from the army’s orders and enforce bizarre modesty rules on the female soldiers, [which] prevent them from doing their jobs.”

With several mixed-gender border defense battalions, The IDF has in recent years increased the recruitment of women to combat units. The military also recently updated its Joint Service order which regulates interaction between troops of the opposite sex, defining appropriate attire while on base and enforcing mandatory separate sleeping quarters.

According to IDF figures, 38% of female recruits have asked to be evaluated for combat service, and an estimated 90% of the positions in the IDF are also now open to women. While the IDF had 2,500 women serving in combat roles in 2017, up from 500 only three years ago, women still account for less than 10% of combat troops.
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