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      Soldier Sues: IDF Can’t Force Culture

      Soldier expelled over concert row brings case to the Supreme Court. Controversial concert part of issue of national importance, he says.
      By Maayana Miskin
      First Publish: 9/13/2011, 9:42 AM

      A young IDF soldier expelled from an officer’s course for refusing to listen to women sing has taken his case to the Supreme Court. The soldier claims the IDF does not have the legal right to command soldiers to take part in cultural activities.

      The issue is one of national importance, he told the court. “The reality described in the appeal, if it is not changed by this honorable court, is likely to put an end to hopes of integrating hareidi-religious men in the IDF.”

      He cited order from the IDF Chief of Staff calling on commanders not to force soldiers to participate in cultural activities that violate their religious beliefs.

      The court has ordered commanders to respond to the appeal within a week.

      The affair began with an event called to discuss the IDF counter-terror operation Cast Lead. During the event, a performance was held in which female soldiers began to sing. Several religious Jewish officers-in-training quietly left the hall in order to avoid hearing the live performance. They refused a commanding officer’s order to return before the performance had ended, and were expelled from the course.

      Israel’s Chief Rabbis have intervened on behalf of the soldiers.

      The issue of respect for religious beliefs versus gender equality has been a charged topic in the IDF in recent weeks. A special report commissioned by the Advisor to the Chief of Staff on Women’s Affairs warned that the integration of religious male soldiers was leading to less integration for female soldiers. The report comes as the Knesset hopes to dramatically increase enlistment among hareidi-religious men.