IDF Merkava 3 tanks
IDF Merkava 3 tanksOfer Zidon/Flash 90

Senior rabbis from the national-religious sector gathered Tuesday evening in Jerusalem to discuss the recent decision by the IDF leadership obliging all soldiers to participate in mixed-gender events, and the proposed integration of women into armored combat divisions.

The rabbinic leaders expressed their opposition to the new guidelines, approved by IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, which would prohibit soldiers from requesting leave from events on religious grounds.

Many observant Jewish soldiers have, in the past, sought to avoid participating in events featuring female singers or dancers, arguing that being forced to sit in on the events constitutes a violation of their religious beliefs. This was once understood and accepted without question as a religious liberty issue, but feminist demands turned it into a controversy.

Among the rabbis in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting were former Hevron-Kiryat Arba Chief Rabbi Dov Lior, Tzfat Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, Elon Moreh yeshiva dean and Chief Rabbi of Samaria Elyakim Levanon, and Har HaMor Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Mordechai Shteinberg.

The participants slammed what they said amounted to a growing trend of mistaken feminist ideology trumping the army’s practical needs.

“This is not just a problem for religious or traditional soldiers,” said Rabbi Lior, “this [constitutes] a loss of values in the IDF.”

“The idea of 'equality' [not equal rights but equal placement whether or not it is suitable] has become more important than the [army’s] operations [themselves]. There is a terrible blurring [of values] and weakening of the army. Now you have here an order that forces religious and traditional soldiers to violate their faith. That’s something that we’ve never seen before.”

Rabbi Eliyahu called upon the political leadership to intervene in the matter.

“It is incumbent on the Prime Minister, the ministers, and the Knesset Members to get involved in this issue and to prevent serious damage to the functioning of the army.”

Rabbis and soldiers have declared unequivocally that it is in direct contradiction to the halakhot of contact between the sexes to have armored tanks with a mixed gender squad in close quarters. In addition, army officers have pointed out that the mixed gender Caracal combat unit lowered its physical standards to be able to accept women and has a less than stellar achievement record as a result.