Daily Israel Report

'IDF Must Keep its Promises - or Hareidi Soldiers Will Leave'

A rabbi who helped found an IDF unit for hareidi soldiers accuses the army of breaking its promises; warns hareidi Jews will leave.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 2/8/2013, 11:09 AM

Hareidi-religious IDF soldiers
Hareidi-religious IDF soldiers
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Rabbi Yoel Schwartz was among those who founded the Nahal Hareidi (Netzach Yehuda) battalion, which opened the IDF to hareidi-religious soldiers by providing an environment suited to their religious lifestyle.

Now Rabbi Schwartz has issued a warning to the IDF: if army leaders do not keep their promises to hareidi soldiers, it will be impossible to enlist hareidi Jews.

Speaking to Arutz Sheva, Rabbi Schwartz condemned IDF leaders for, he said, violating their promises. “It’s worse than you can possibly imagine. They do not keep their word,” he charged.

“We had a hareidi unit in the navy, a torpedo unit that worked with the submarines. The IDF did not fulfill the conditions [promised], they brought in girls,” he related. “We closed the unit immediately.”

Hareidi communities live with separation of the genders, particularly among young single men and women. One thing hareidi rabbis have insisted on regarding hareidi units in the IDF is that the units remain for men only, and that the men be allowed to perform their duties without close interaction with female soldiers.

Religious Zionist soldiers and their rabbis complain about the same problem, exacerbated in recent years when separate units for Hesder religious Zionist soldiers were all

The religious-Zionist Hesder soldiers have also faced more conflict over their religious principles in recent years, due to the abolishing of most separate units for 'Hesderniks', as they are called, and  feminist groups' insistence on allowing girls to serve in any capacity - even out in the field where conditions make separation difficult. Some commanders have insisted that their soldiers listen to female soldiers sing during cultural events, creating a problem for soldiers due to the prohibition on “kol isha,” listening to a woman sing in Jewish law.

Rabbi Schwartz argued that the heads of Hesder yeshivas took the wrong approach to the issue. “I yelled at them, I said they need to stand on their feet and tell the IDF, ‘if you want us to serve, you serve us,’” he recalled.

“People who aren’t religious need to understand that they need to be flexible with us,” he continued. “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu needs to go sit with [Sephardi hareidi leader] Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and [Ashkenazi hareidi leader] Rabbi Shteinman and brainstorm together.”

Most conflicts regarding hareidi lifestyles and the army involve women, the rabbi noted. He and other hareidi leaders offered several ideas that would allow hareidi soldiers to serve without interacting with female soldiers, he said, but “they rejected all of them.”

“There’s a stupid concept today of ‘segregating women’ [hadarat nashim]” he said. “Women need to push themselves into every place.”

What the army must understand is that hareidi parents’ primary fear is that their sons will leave their hareidi lifestyle if they join the army, Rabbi Schwartz said. “And what causes that is girls. They need to establish units with no girls, and with stringent kashrut – without that, there will not be anything.”