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Hesder Yeshivas: IDF Will Lose Good Soldiers

Rabbis of Hesder yeshiva programs criticize new IDF plan, say it will prevent religious soldiers from serving.
By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 11/8/2013, 11:38 AM

Religious Soldiers
Religious Soldiers
Flash 90

Rabbis of the Hesder yeshivas, yeshivas that offer a 5 year combination program of religious study and IDF service, strongly denounced a new IDF plan which they say will harm the balance of their program and prevent religious soldiers from serving.

Hesder yeshiva recruits spend their first year and a half in the framework studying in yeshiva, then serve in the regular army for a year and a half, alternating with semesters of study in their yeshiva.

Orna Barbivai, the IDF's first female Major General and Commander of the Personnel Directorate, is behind the new plan which will increase the quota of women in the Officers' Course, will force religious soldiers to attend ceremonies involving women who sing on stage, and force more officers to command over units that include women.

Additionally, the new initiative will allow female sports instructors to wear "immodest clothing," such as shorts and “spaghetti strap” undershirts, while training men.

The new plan reflects the tensions involved in balancing the desire to allow more women to serve and to meet their needs while maintaining fundamental values required for religious soldiers to be able to serve. Hesder rabbis say the most troubling part of the new plan is that it was concocted without consulting religious Zionist rabbis, and that it diminishes the position of the IDF Chief Rabbi Rafi Peretz.

Rabbi Chaim Druckman told Arutz Sheva that the Hesder rabbis were totally ignored in the process, in contrast to past coordination between the IDF and Hesder rabbis. He says "there was no disclosure, they didn't let us know anything and news reached our ears only when they were about to be announced."

Meanwhile there have been rumors that the Hesder framework is to be cancelled due to budget cuts. MK Eliezer Stern (HaTnua) spoke Friday about the issue, saying that the institution should stay but that current standards must change.

MK Yoni Chetboun (Bayit Yehudi) is set to speak with the IDF Chief Rabbi about the new plans soon, and expressed fears that the current talks show the central IDF value of victory has been replaced with the value of equality. He further said that as the army of the nation it is unacceptable for religious Zionist and Haredi-religious soldiers to be prevented from serving in all fields of the IDF.

The recent push to increase female army service in mixed units comes despite findings by the Forum for a Strong IDF (FSIDF) that such service is dangerous and frequently leads to serious injuries for women soldiers.

From another perspective, the new plans may harm Orthodox Jewish olim (new immigrants), who may now find their options of military service severely limited. Hesder is an attractive option to religious men in general and olim in particular, who have not been raised with the concept of army service and often view the arrangement as a reasonable compromise.  

Former IDF Chief Rabbi Avichai Rontzki noted that there are many groups pressuring the IDF to be more lenient and harm religious sensibilities, saying that the religious 'harm' the IDF and pluralism. He says such claims are nonsense, and the groups are threatened that so many religious soldiers are joining and succeeding in the military.