Women are welcome in the IDF, but should not always have the same roles as men, said Rabbi Avichai Ronsky, a former Chief Rabbi of the IDF.
Rabbi Ronsky’s remarks caused a stir Tuesday evening at a special panel on women in the IDF hosted by the Israel Democracy Institute.
“The military is not a laboratory for research on equality in Israeli society,” Rabbi Ronsky argued. “I was taught, and I teach my soldiers, to take out the enemy.”
“That’s why male and female soldiers need to each be put in the right roles,” he added.
Rabbi Ronsky criticized feminist groups that seek to change IDF policy regarding female soldiers. “Political organizations are trying to influence military decisions. Female soldiers can integrate wonderfully in training, in intelligence… but not in stopping the enemy on the battlefield,” he argued.
IDF commanders “are afraid to say these things publicly, because of the media backlash they would get,” he said.
Journalist Carmele Menashe, another panelist, harshly criticized Rabbi Ronsky. “You’re talking like a little boy. Your statements are outrageous,” she told him.
Rabbanit Shulamit Melamed, the director of Arutz Sheva, expressed support for Rabbi Ronsky, and argued in favor of total non-enlistment for women.
“I’m very happy that fewer women are going to the army,” she declared. “Women and men are not the same – not even if you say it one hundred times.”
“Men are physically stronger, braver, crueler, and they want to win. Women are different,” she continued.
“The army must be brave and stop these feminist games,” she concluded.
Rabbi Benny Lau said, “We are in a Jewish, democratic society, and as a rabbi I will say that we are in a milchemet mitzvah [a war of self-defense – ed.] and women need to take part in fighting, according to their abilities.”
Israel's Chief Rabbinate ruled from its inception that girls should be exempt from army service, citing the halakic prohibition against women being in a system where they are subordinate to male authority and cannot leave of their own volition, a situation that leaves them open to possible harrassment. The IDF has admitted that it has no shortage of male soldiers to fill its combat and non-combat needs.