Hareidi-religious IDF soldiers told Arutz Sheva Tuesday that they suffered intentional humiliation at the hands of their commanders this week. The events described may be connected to the recent wave of anti-hareidi incitement in Israel's press.
Arutz Sheva has learned that soldiers in the hareidi Shachar Kachol unit stationed at Tel Nof Air Force Base were made to sit in a lesson Monday with female soldiers from one of the base's units. This instruction clearly contradicts the terms of service to which the IDF committed itself when the soldiers enlisted, which include complete separation from women.
Soldiers told Arutz Sheva that when they realized they were about to attend a lesson alongside women, they complained to their commanders. In response, they said that one of the base commanders said: "From now on, this is the procedure." He added: "We will not have exclusion of women here from now on."
The soldiers said they were also instructed to clean women's restrooms as part of their routine participation in cleaning and maintaining the base. This, too, is a violation of the terms of service that stipulate that they will remain within their training area and not enter women's quarters.
Eliyahu Lax, chairman of the Association for the Torah-Observant Soldier, said that he had spoke to senior figures in the battalion who averred that the story was true. "Unfortunately," he said, "we are getting the feeling, and not for the first time, that the IDF is not interested in hareidim, and the entire issue of incentives for enlisting hareidim is simply raised in order to use hareidim as a punching bag."
The hareidi soldiers have braved the hurdle of the disapprobation of some members of their community, who feel that they are going against the hareidi way of life and that they will end up lowering their standards of religious observance. These incidents are being used to show that those anti-army elements are right.
The IDF said Wednesday that an inquiry was held into the event following the soldiers' complaints and that "instructions regarding the activities of Shachar Kachol have been refreshed in order to prevent similar incidents from happening again in the future."