An IDF troupe
An IDF troupeIDF Spokesman's Unit

Large groups of religious soldiers have begun walking out on performances that include female soldiers singing on stage, the IDF’s magazine BaMachaneh reported in its latest issue.

According to the military publication, it has become commonplace for large groups of soldiers to walk out of shows put on for them by IDF morale-boosting song-and-dance troupes. In so doing, the soldiers are following religious Jewish law (Halacha), which disapproves of females singing and/or dancing before a male audience. The soldiers who walk out of the performances usually do so only for the duration of the female dance routines, and return to their seats when those routines are over.

"This phenomenon – which has a negative effect on the unit’s cohesion – should not be granted legitimacy"

BaMachaneh said that the most recent such event occurred at a performance held in an event for the Paratroopers’ Brigade at the Haifa Congress Hall. At the event, which was held to mark the end of Operation Cast Lead, about 100 soldiers left the hall when a female soldier from the brigade went on stage to sing.

After the musical interlude, the soldiers were all asked to return to their seats.

A 'worrisome' phenomenon

Another similar event occurred in February 2008, at the ‘historic legacy’ (moreshet) ceremony of the Givati Brigade’s Tzabar Battalion. Numerous soldiers left the event after they found out that it would involve a female singer.

No disciplinary action was taken against the soldiers in either event.

The IDF’s Head Education and Youth Officer, Brig.-Gen. Eli Shermeister, said that the phenomenon was a ‘worrisome’ one. “It is not proper that on events dedicated to the unit, the soldiers will split up and will not all be part of the event, which is meant to strengthen their bonding,” he said. “The Education and Youth Corps knows how to help produce events which fit the tastes of all of the IDF’s soldiers and this phenomenon – which has a negative effect on the unit’s cohesion and the importance of the event – should not be granted legitimacy.”

'No justification for coercion'

The Military Rabbinate said, however, that there is no justification for forcing religious soldiers and officers to be present at these parts of the ceremonies and for coercing them into something that contradicts their religious worldview.

“The organizers should be aware of this problem,” explained Rabbi Captain Menachem Perl, who heads the Halacha Section in the Military Rabbinate. He calls for a “creative solution” to be found, “either by releasing the religious soldiers from the entire event, or by letting them exit

“The organizers should be aware of this problem,” explained Captain Rabbi Menachem Perl.

discreetly during parts of the event, or by changing the contents of the event itself.”

Perl said that Halacha (Jewish law) defines listening to a woman’s singing voice as a step toward intimacy and thus immodest (kol be’isha erva) and that therefore, according to the letter of the religious law, religious soldiers are not allowed to listen to a female singer even in a military ceremony.

He added, however, that commanders and professional officers whose presence is essential are “grudgingly” given permission to remain in the hall during the singing.