Press Release

National Security and Democracy Day 2

The second day of the Israel Democracy Institute's Center for National Security and Democracy annual conference , held in partnership with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (Israel office), concluded today (Wednesday). The online conference focused on public trust in the IDF, the militarization of a civilian crisis, the IDF model of service and gender equality in the military.

Ahead of the conference, the Israel Democracy Institute conducted a broad survey on the question of trust in the IDF, which showed that while public confidence in the military's readiness for security threats is high, it is lower when it comes to the civilian aspects it deals with.


The following are from the 'Berets & Kippahs - The IDF and the National Religious Public' session, moderated by journalist Yair Ettinger:

Rabbi Rafi Peretz, Minister of Jerusalem and Heritage: "The critical issue for Religious Zionism is gender integration, and the Supreme Court the decision on the elite combat units. It is very complex and in the decision to enable 'proper integration' was an attempt to address this issue, though it wasn’t perfect.” Minister Peretz noted that he had reservations and was unwilling to sign the integration order, even though he himself had taken part in composing it. "I thought it was impossible to force an officer and a combat soldier to go to a coed unit. In everything else it is acceptable – in intelligence units, it's okay. But a combatant, under the stretcher, or inside the tank, is a different story. We came to the conclusion that a soldier could not be required (to go to a mixed unit), but the officer should also have the opportunity to do so for religious reasons and the army should respect that."

"This cultural issue, which is now being expressed, has culminated now in the Supreme Court discussion on the elite units. It is a question which value to prefer - the value of victory or the value of equality. In my opinion, the value of victory takes precedence. Obviously we will have to lower the bar, which is what happens in any coed unit, and with that we fight less well. It does not make sense that a female soldier will carry 50 kilos on her back. So there will be one who can do it, but simultaneously we are on the way to losing ten women who physiologically completed their military service and got stuck with a serious health problem for the rest of their life. We must take responsibility for this as well. In addition, this way we don’t fight as well.”

"If we want Religious Zionists in the combat units, we need to know that we have a limit. We can deal with kashrut and Shabbat, but if we have to be in mixed-gender units, and guard together at night, Religious Zionism will not be there. This means putting equality over the value of victory."

On the burial of non-Jews in military cemeteries and the decision of the IDF Chief Rabbi Rabbi Eyal Krim: "Although the place of non-Jews is not 'within the fences' of Jewish cemeteries - in the case of the army, a comrades place is certainly important. We greatly appreciate our brothers who join in Israel's battles. I respect his decision. I made a different decision."

MK Elazar Stern, Yesh Atid, in response to Minister Peretz: "Blaming the IDF for secularization is mistaken. Being religious is not easy, so attempts to blame the army and say it is a cause of illness are very sad. I despise this worldview."

"It is true that the army will decide in the Elite Unite Supreme Court case, precisely because it is the 'people's army.' Women should be given the right to be combatants in the IDF, so I am in favor of opening up as much as the army says it is possible. The tank units are not under discussion and no one thought there would be boys and girls in the same tank, crews of men and crews of women. Contrary to Rabbi Rafi's words, there are women who can carry heavy weights.”

"On the other hand, I am against the religion of integration at all costs. Women should be in special units, but not in all units, but in accordance with the needs of the IDF. Not because women will not win a war like men."

MK Stern added that he supported the decision made regarding the burial of non-Jews and acted accordingly. "I went to the late Rabbi Eliyahu who said we would make partitions. I went to Rabbi Ariel who said that the depth (of the grave) was important. I left his house in agreement but the then Chief IDF Rabbi had changed his mind. I am glad that Rafi’s opinion was overturned and that Rabbi Krim implemented what should have been done in the first place.”

Rabbanit Michal Nagan, head of the pre-military preparatory academy for religious women Tzahali: "Religious Zionism needs to establish four additional good, diverse pre-military preparatory academies. More institutions that can mediate. This way, new recruits will arrive more prepared, choose their role wisely - and that is critical. Tools must be given to the youth. Second, the military does not properly care for the religious public that is inducted into combat units, and especially religious women who serve there. They feel they have broken all boundaries but that is not true. They must create more and more battalions and coed divisions. It is not possible to have only one kind of unit for female combatants - which is not suitable for everyone."

Brigadier General (Res.) Sharon Nir, former Adviser to the IDF Chief of Staff on Gender Affairs: "Since the 2000s, there has been a welcome increase in the presence of National-Religious soliders in the combat units. In the last decade we also see more religious women soldiers, National Religious female soldiers who waive their exemption. This is also a welcome presence. It creates challenges for religious men and women soldiers in the army, who for the first time reach a coed framework. The natural desire of national religious Zionism is to preserve the uniqueness of the religious soldier. The challenge the IDF faces is providing the appropriate platform to exist within the organization. The desire of Religious Zionist rabbis for the proper integration of religious soldiers increases their involvement in the IDF. It is important to make sure that this involvement does not become intervention."

Rabbi Amichai Eliyahu, Chairman of the Association of Congregational Rabbis: "It is clear that there are organizations within the army that try to work to promote different worldviews, and not allow the army to be an open space for all citizens. The army should join hands with the rabbis and not fight them. The IDF cannot interfere in civil society, we are the educators of civil society. The military's intervention in civilian processes is dangerous, it does not belong to democracies. It is neither democratic nor moral."

Roi Sharon, security correspondent, Israel Broadcasting Corporation: "A few years ago, there were interested parties in presenting the 'crisis' between the national religious and the army. From the first moment, it was clear that there was no such crisis, there was not and will not be. "The great and glorious work of Rabbis Sadan and Levinstein has been a success story for generations, but for a long time now the students have not looked to see what the rabbi will say. If there are female soldiers who want to serve in combat service, it should be allowed and left in the hands of the army."