A new statement from IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi requires soldiers to tolerate immodest performances in the name of group bonding.
For months, IDF rabbis have battled the Education and Youth Corps over the issue of military performances that do not conform to Halacha (Jewish law). The statement from Lt.-Gen. Ashkenazi appears to support the Education Corps over the Rabbinate.
Performances for soldiers are IDF activities for all intents and purposes, and soldiers must attend them, Ashkenazi said. “After the performance begins, if a soldier feels that what is happening on stage does not suit his religious views, he is not required to look directly or to play an active role,” he said.
A religious soldier “can stay in his place and show forbearance, in order to respect his unit and the people on stage,” he continued. Leaving the hall during the performance would be detrimental to the unit's cohesion, and to performers' ability to get their message across to the soldiers present, he said.
While ordering soldiers to remain in place for the sake of group bonding, Ashkenazi had demands for organizers as well, and called on those who plan IDF events to take soldiers' religious needs into concern.
In March, the IDF's BaMachaneh magazine reported that large groups of soldiers had begun walking out of performances that included women singing or dancing on stage. Brigadier-General Eli Shermeister, head of the Education and Youth Corps, called the phenomenon “worrisome,” and suggested that soldiers who left during performances were reducing group cohesion.
The IDF Rabbinate ruled that there is no justification for forcing religious soldiers to be present at a performance that violates Halacha. Organizers should be aware of the issues religious soldiers face, and should find a “creative solution” by releasing the soldiers from all or part of the event, or by changing the contents of the event to allow all soldiers to take part, the Rabbinate said.