'Better to go to jail than to serve in mixed-gender units'

Dean of Sderot Hesder Yeshiva calls on his students to go to military prison rather than serve in combat units with women.

Arutz Sheva Staff,

Rabbi Bareli
Rabbi Bareli
Hezki Baruch

Rabbi Ariel Bareli, the head of the Hesder yeshiva in Sderot and a grandson of the late Rabbi Moshe Neriya who founded the network of Bnai Akiva yeshivas and Ulpanas, accused IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot of forcing women into combat units based on political motivations and made it clear that he would instruct his students not to serve in a mixed combat unit.

In an interview with Radio 101.5, Rabbi Bareli said: "It is forbidden to enlist in a battalion of this kind. I think we should call him (the Chief of Staff) to order, explain it to him, maybe he is planning a political future, I do not know what his considerations are."

"I, as an educator, tell my students: 'If this is your only choice, then go to jail.' You can not serve in this type of battalion," Rabbi Bareli stressed.

MK Oded Forer of Yisrael Beytenu said in response that "it is impossible to hold a stick from both ends: on the one hand, the hesder yeshivas enjoy special conditions regarding the level and length of the service. On the other hand, yeshiva heads are calling on future trainees to enlist in the IDF to go to jail and not serve in a mixed unit, only because of criticism of the Chief of Staff's activities."

"It has recently become a national sport of the rabbis to incite against the IDF and we must put an end to this and deal with it with all the severity of the law," Forer said.

MK Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union) responded: "The call to refuse orders and go to jail is a harsh and brazen call by rabbis which has been running rampant in recent days."

"Those who have to go to jail are not the students who will not listen to this call and will continue to serve in the army and in the elite units, but the rabbis themselves, who receive pay from the public and take advantage of their status and authority to read calls against service in the IDF and to a certain extent against the state," Shmuli said.

According to Shmuli, "the army headed by Eizenkot, who does not need a mark from anyone, is making supreme efforts to allow the space and conditions for these soldiers to serve - that is how it will be and no one will be able to stop the integration of religious soldiers and other soldiers in the IDF."

Religious Zionist rabbis have found themselves in a bind since the IDF expanded the number of mixed units in its ranks. On the one hand, Religious Zionism believes that yeshiva students serving in the Jewish army is a mitzva and created the hesder and mechina frameworks to combine "the sword and the holy book." Rabbinic works abound on how to solve halakhic questions that arise during IDF service, including the conditions when Sabbath laws may be violated, all so that soldiers can keep their standards of observance while serving..

The rabbis attend swearing in ceremonies, visit the yeshiva soldiers and keep in touch with them. There is, however, no question in their mind that adherence to halakha is above obeying IDF commands and they have therefore invested intensive study in reaching Torah decisions preventing that dilemma from occurring.

Mixed gender units have made that balance impossible, as there is no way for a soldier in a mixed combat unit to adhere to the halakha regarding contact with the opposite sex.

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