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IDF Chief Rabbi: Military Will Not Discriminate Against Women

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Female Israeli soldiers unloading their weapons.
Female Israeli soldiers unloading their weapons.

Female Israeli soldiers unloading their weapons.

Speaking at a Sunday conference of senior members of the Israel Defense Forces’ Chief Rabbinate, IDF Chief Rabbi Brigadier-General Rafi Peretz declared his intention to prevent any form of discrimination against women in the army. “There will not be any exclusion of women in the IDF,” Peretz stated. “It is incumbent upon us, who know the importance of the dignity of women, to prevent this debate from entering our ranks.” Peretz further said that outside lecturers who are opposed to the IDF’s rules forbidding the exclusion of women will not be allowed to address soldiers. The statements came several months after a controversial episode involving a group of nine religious soldiers on the IDF officers training course, who walked out of an army event when some female soldiers publicly sang, citing the singing as a violation of their religious beliefs. Following their refusal to return to the event when told to do so by their commanding officer, four of the dissenting soldiers were expelled from the course.
Peretz explained that according to army guidelines, every soldier must attend all official IDF ceremonies, whether or not any women will be singing there. In regard to less formal ceremonies, officers have discretion to exempt soldiers who wish not to attend. At the conference, the IDF Chief Rabbi said that army rabbis were required to prevent discrimination against women in the army as part of the wider obligation to preserve military unity. “The order of the day is love of one’s fellow and unity of the ranks,” he stressed. “This is the most important command at the moment, as I see it.” Peretz took pains to note that “incidents involving the shunning of women should not be attributed to an entire sector of society. Military rabbis stand united at the forefront of the struggle.”
Referring to the recent rulings of IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, the IDF Chief Rabbi said that it is proper for women to perform at official army ceremonies. He further said that – while a commanding officer may choose to accommodate a religious soldier who requests to absent himself when a female soldier sings publicly – military regulations must take preference when they come in conflict with Jewish law. “The IDF Rabbinate is the rabbinate of all, not just the religious,” he commented. “For us, it is a very big honor to be emissaries towards serving this goal.”

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