Women in the IDF
Women in the IDF Israel news photo: Flash 90

Rebbetzin Yehudit Shilat of Takana, a forum which fights sexual harassment, believes that no woman, religiously observant or not, should be required to enlist in the military. In an interview Thursday with Arutz Sheva, Shilat responded to a proposed Knesset law that would make it more difficult for young women to escape IDF service by claiming to be religiously observant.

Shilat expressed support for the proposed measures to ensure that all women who choose not to serve due to “religious reasons” are actually religious, and are not merely using religion as an excuse to evade national service altogether. The dishonest use of religion is a hillul Hashem – a desecration of G-d's name, she said.

However, Shilat stated, “Women do not need to be in the army... the state must allow women to choose not to enlist.” The presence of women in the military leads to scenarios that are problematic in terms of both IDF morale and issues relating to sexual harassment, she said.

When pushed for more information, Shilat said, “Let's not get into details... We know that the ties between male commanders and female soldiers, and between male and female soldiers, do not meet the [Biblical] standard of 'Your camp shall be holy.'”

The National Service option

There are many ways in which women can contribute to Israel's security without joining the military, she said. “Security isn't just about war and related matters, it's also about social welfare, health, education – that's also part of creating a secure society.”

While they should be released from the obligation to perform military service, women should remain obligated to contribute to the state through some form of formal service, Shilat believes. Currently, many religious-Zionist young women who do not enlist for religious reasons go on to volunteer for National Service programs instead.

Women can make the personal choice to enlist in the IDF if they wish to do so, Shilat said, while noting that she personally would not recommend such a choice.

Hareidi-religious Knesset members and community leaders have also expressed support for the idea of removing women from the IDF entirely. However, Shilat noted that their motives were not always the same as hers or those of other members of the religious Zionist community. “They think the military is not an appropriate environment for men, either,” she said.

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