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Religious Soldiers: Stop Provoking Us

NGO that assists religious soldiers says attempts to make them uncomfortable are intentional.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 1/24/2012, 9:07 AM

A Nahal Hareidi soldier
A Nahal Hareidi soldier
Courtesy of Nahal Hareidi

The Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee hosted Major General Orna Barbivai Monday and discussed the Tal Law and the need to enlist hareidim to the army. However, an NGO that advocates for the rights of religious soldiers says that elements within the IDF are purposely provoking kippah-wearers.

According to Eliyahu Lax, Chairman of the Organization for the Religious Soldier, public promises to make army service more religious-friendly do not materialize on the ground.

Lax said that in Bahad 1, where the Officer's Training Courses are held, "they did not give cadets time for prayer, there has been women's singing with no possibility of leaving [the room] at the end of three training courses in a row, and there was the story of sending religious soldiers to clean women's restrooms although it is against the law, and more."

The problems are not isolated and unrepresentative, Lax insisted. "Every day I receive phone calls about religion-related problems. Some of the cases have not yet hit the press."

Lax relates an incident in which hareidi soldiers from the Vizhnitz, Boyan and Gur hassidic dynasties were sent to have basic training in a base with a population that is 50 percent female. "In my view, that is intentional," he said.

The activist said that the Organization for the Religious Soldier has asked the IDF to open a special Officers' Training School for hareidim. A special training center for hareidi platoon commanders already operates successfully, he noted.

A move by leading rabbis to call upon hareidi and religious Zionist men not to enlist to the IDF has been frozen, he said, and if the IDF solves the current problems in its attitude toward religious soldiers, the move will be scrapped, he said.