Soldiers from Unit 8200, an IDF Intelligence Corps unit, were ordered today (Monday) to listen to a lecture by one of the unit's soldiers who told the story of his coming out of the closet as an LGBTQ person as part of a program to combat sexual harassment.
About a thousand soldiers were invited to a conference held by The Gender Advisor to the Chief of Defense Staff, when it was explained to them that attendance at the conference was mandatory. Commanders stood at the entrance to the conference with lists to verify the soldiers' attendance.
The conference did at the start deal with the topic of preventing sexual harassment, which included IDF soldiers who are obliged to learn content on the topic at least once every six months
However, later the conference took a surprising turn. A gay soldier from the unit took the stage and told the soldiers the story of his coming out of the closet and the experiences of his LGBTQ friends. Some of the soldiers were surprised to find themselves obliged to sit in on a lecture on LGBTQ issues.
"Everything was under the pretense of the Gender Advisor's conference," one attendee told Israel National News. Two people spoke for about five minutes just to make room for the 'real' lecture. A gay soldier came and told the story of his coming out of the closet and his experience around it. He said there as if joking that for every eight straight people in the unit there are 200 gays. Even secular people were surprised. If you want to do an event, why disguise it? The army belongs to the whole nation and Unit 8200 belongs to the whole nation, and if you do such things in a mandatory format, you harm the populace. Let them make it optional."
The IDF spokesperson claimed that the second part of the conference was not defined as mandatory for soldiers, but soldiers present at the conference claimed otherwise. "This is simply not true. it's a lie. It was absolutely mandatory. It was mandatory with lists," said a soldier from the unit. "When you want to give optional lectures, you do it after the schedule and those who want to can come and those who don't want to don't come. Suddenly they oblige everyone and make lists? Do you check that everyone is present? I have never seen anything like this in my entire service. We never stop the entire schedule for four hours. We screened some half-baked presentation for five minutes to make room for the real lecture."
"Stopping work for four hours is ridiculous," he added. "They stopped the work of an entire center, about a thousand soldiers. They don't even do it for other lectures. This is a step up after the LGBT event that was in the unit. This lecture hurt me as a religious soldier and moreover, the very lie of the presentation of the lecture as a Gender Adviser's lecture should not happen in the IDF and is a very serious matter."
The IDF spokesperson: "All IDF units are obliged to carry out information about the prevention of sexual harassment every six months."
"The transmitted contents are defined by The Gender Advisor to the Chief of Defense Staff and do not include reference to sexual preferences or any other content, which is not the prevention of harm on a sexual basis.
"At the end of the conference, there was a lecture that is not part of the mandatory content that the Gender Advisor instructs on. This is an individual initiative of a female officer in the unit whose goal was to create a tolerant and respectful discourse for servicemen from the LGBT community. At the beginning of the lecture to the conscripted soldiers, the participants were told that attendance is not mandatory, and that a soldier who feels uncomfortable may leave."