Should women serve with men?
Prof. Yedidia Stern, vice-president of the Israel Democracy Institute, responds to the remarks by Rabbi Aviner and Rabbi Eliyahu that it is forbidden to serve in the IDF if there are women in a military unit and that the Chief of Staff should be dismissed.
It is sad to learn that joyful developments—the massive growth in the number of religious girls who are serving in the IDF (a threefold increase in seven years) and the appointment of a women as deputy commander of an Air Force combat squadron—are perceived by the rabbis of the ḥardal (Zionist Ultraorthodox) stream as a threat.
These rabbis, who loudly extol the virtues of Jewish statehood, do not hesitate to drag the people’s army into the arena of conflict with their irresponsible statements
These rabbis, who loudly extol the virtues of Jewish statehood, do not hesitate to drag the people’s army into the arena of conflict with their irresponsible calls not to serve as long as there is no separation by gender (Rabbi Aviner) and to fire the Chief of Staff (Rabbi Eliyahu).
It should be made clear: The IDF, following the Chief of Staff’s orders and in conjunction with a majority of the observant sector, is very careful to avoid creating situations that require forbidden conduct by Torah-observant servicemen and women. Hence the opposition by the Zionist Ultraorthodox must stem from their fear of the military atmosphere, which is not “modest” and consequently, in their view, is inappropriate for young women. But how is this different for women and men? Why is it a challenge for women and not for men?
The Religious Zionist camp—women and men—continues to serve at a very high rate and in meaningful positions, despite the rearguard action that is being conducted by some rabbis. Military service is the fulfillment of their lives both as Zionists and as observant Jews.