Gantz at an exercise.
Gantz at an exercise. IDF Spokesman's Unit


IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz voiced criticism Sunday of the opinion of Chief Samaria Rabbi, Rav Elyakim Levanon, that religious soldiers will have to leave the IDF if the army continues to insist that they must watch female singers perform.

The Chief of Staff admitted he had not heard all of Levanon's statements, but said: "what I heard – I did not like."

Gantz added: "Everyone serves in the army, men and women alike, religious and secular, and the question is not who excludes whom but who enlists to serve."

Rav Levanon said that the matter fell under the category of restrictions that Judaism commands believers to abide by even if it results in death. The rabbi was alluding to the laws of "Chilul Hashem" [ the possible desecration of G-d's name, ed.], which state that if a Jew is forced to sin in the public domain, even a slight infraction of the halakhah must be resisted to the death.

In an interview to Radio Kol Chai, Rav Levanon said: "They are bringing us closer to a situation in which rabbis will have to instruct soldiers – you must leave events like these even if a firing squad is standing outside waiting to shoot you dead. I hope very much that there will be some wise people who will block this terrible move, but if not, we will have no choice. I will recommend to whoever asks me not to enlist anymore."

Tthe Halakhic principle of "kol b'isha" views female singing as immodest. Religious soldiers usually opt to walk out of performances that include women, or not to enter them in the first place. It was never an issue until an IDF commander refused the request of soldiers not to attend a performance with female singers.  The IDF then even removed several cadets from Officers' Course for walking out on a female singer. The performances in question are not solemn official occasions but meant solely for entertainment and building "unit cohesion."

The conflict over female singing is part of a larger one over the character of the IDF, between religious-Zionist soldiers who are becoming increasingly important in the IDF command and elite combat units and who expect their religious rights to be respected and a leftist stream that is anti-religious and believes that women must be given equal roles in combat units, including field conditions  where separation is impossible -  even if this means religious soldiers cannot continue to serve in them.

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