'Meaningless media spin'

Leading Religious Zionist rabbis dismiss reports that IDF head will require religious officers to command female soldiers.

Tzvi Lev ,

Rabbi Haim Druckman
Rabbi Haim Druckman
Yoni Kempinski

Leading Religious Zionist rabbis have rejected reports that IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot will go ahead with the IDF's controversial new mixed gender integration policy, despite recently meeting with them a few weeks back about the issue.

Maariv reported on Monday that Eizenkot has decided to reject appeals from the Religious Zionist sector to nix changes to army guidelines and allow religiously-observant IDF officers to refuse to take command positions over female soldiers. According to the report, the wording of the controversial new directive will be changed slightly to mollify religious soldiers, but no substantive changes will be made.

The rabbis said that they reiterated to Eizenkot that religious officers cannot be required to serve in mixed battalions and said they were skeptical of the validity of the report. "We believe that if the Chief of Staff had made a significant decision on the matter, he would have informed us and not [Maariv reporter] Ben Caspit," they said.

"Therefore, as far as we know, and as long as the Chief of Staff's bureau has not given an official, direct response to the rabbis on this issue, we believe that the report was completely erroneous and has no more than a meaningless journalistic spin," the rabbis added.

The new guidelines, called the Joint Service Order, has raised concern among religious soldiers, many of whom contend that their religious rights will be ignored under the new regulations. Unlike the existing policy, the Joint Service Order does not exempt soldiers from any activity considered to be heritage education or from military memorial ceremonies, even if they include women singing. Many observant Jews refrain from listening to women signing, particularly in live performances. Decisions regarding other activities will be subject to the commander's discretion.

On Sunday, the IDF announced that 13 female soldiers who finished tank corps training are to begin operational activity in the coming days. The soldiers are part of a pilot program that aims to assess whether women are physically capable to handle the arduous conditions that handling a tank requires, such as loading heavy tank shells.