Religious Zionist liberals
'It is forbidden to serve in mixed units'

Religious Zionist liberals Yaakov Medan, Shlomo Riskin, David Stav and others issue statements opposing the mixed service directive

Ido ben Porat,

Yaakov Medan
Yaakov Medan
Eliran Aharon

Har Etzion Yeshiva head Rabbi Yaakov Medan, Efrat Chief Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Tzohar rabbinic organization leader Rabbi David Stav and the rabbis of "Beit Hillel", a liberal modern Orthodox rabbinic group have all announced their opposition to the new IDF mixed service directive. The rabbis have called on the IDF to demonstrate sensitivity for the religious public and allow it to maintain its values and beliefs within the army.

Religious young men constitute over 30% of combat fightes in the IDF, way above their percentage in the population, and are considered among the best and most motivated soldiers in its ranks.

Six months after the introduction of the new standing orders regarding gender integration, wirtten in consultation with Zionist rabbis, they were replaced with what is called "the mixed service directive." a far-reaching change in the carefully worded standards of the first document. Relgious Zionist yeshiva heads and leading rabbis immediately and vehemently condemned the directive, but now rabbis from the most liberal sector of Religious Zionism have published a position paper against the new level of gender integration in the IDF.

The rabbis referred to the changes in the directive and proscribed service in frameworks where the living quarters and lifestyles are now directed to be mixed as well as frameworks which require close physical contact and cooperation between the sexes, such as the manning of tanks.

The rabbis addressed their words to Religious Zionist youth and stated:"we believe that the IDF is a place of unity and not of discord. The IDF brings together all the 'tribes' within Israeli society for the sake of the protection of the State of Israel. We deplore every attempt to sow discord and friction around the IDF and every attack on the honor of the soldiers in the IDF."

The rabbis also addressed the IDF officers, calling on them to demonstrate sensitivity for the religious public serving in the IDF so that it will not have to seclude itself in "ghettos" within the army.

The rabbis emphasized that they do not intend to refer to all the various army frameworks and therefore divided them into the rear units in which the joint service does not include joint physical activities and joint living quarters and the combat units which do have joint activities and now, joint living quarters.

The rabbis, in contrast to those rabbis - including the Chief Rabbinate from the inception of the state - who have consistently mandated National Service rather than IDF service for women, maintain that a "mutual workplace of male and female soldiers which does not include close physical contact is an indelible part of modern life in the army and in civilian life and is both permitted and appropriate. However there are a number of units in the army which have not provided solutions for how to implement the required segregation and at present it is forbidden to serve in them."

Rabbi Meir Nehorai, the head of the Bet Hillel rabbinic movement, said that "mixed frameworks of males and females in the army will prevent religious officers and soldiers from taking part and we may see sectorial units which in our opinion is not the right direction [for the IDF]."

Rabbi Yaakov Medan said that "we love the IDF, admire it and want to integrate into all of its units, but recently the IDF led by the Chief of Staff's Advisor on Gender Affairs is trying to reeducate us and force on us a culture we are not accustomed to, a culture which tramples our values and beliefs. We cannot accept this."

Rabbi Stav, the head of Tzohar rabbinic organization and the rabbi of Shoham, said that "the IDF is the people's army and as such should provide the maximum response for every soldier serving in it. It is wrong that military service should harm the values and beliefs of the soldiers. From this perception we need to insist on segregation and modesty rules which suit the ideologies of the religious soldiers serving in the IDF."