Rabbi Avi Shayish, a divisional chaplain in the IDF reserves and the rabbi of Rehovot's Orot Hanan group, has called on military decision makers to restore the authority for growing beards to the military rabbinate.
"Sadly, a significant number of religious soldiers have been denied permission to grow a beard by their adjutant officer," he told Arutz Sheva.
Rabbi Shayish claims that the problem with beards results from the decision to move the sensitive issue from the military rabbinate to the human resources branch. "About a year ago, the head of the human resources branch decided that soldiers are to be clean-shaven, and that permission to grow a beard would come from adjutant officers instead of the military rabbinate.
"It's very problematic for an adjutant officer to decide which soldiers are actually religious and which are not," he explained. "They look at a military ID or a Facebook picture to see if he had a beard in the past, this isn't a serious method."
"As a military rabbi, I have sat with dozens of soldiers, interviewed them to see if a beard is really part of their life. It's true that there were cases of soldiers tried to cheat the system, but to take the authority away from the military rabbinate for that and to give it to the adjutant officers? It's bewildering."
Rabbi Shayish describes the bleak situation in which dozens of religious soldiers are placed in a serious dilemma. "Only yesterday, a soldier in a pre-military academy called me. The head of the academy told him not to shave his beard, but he was already rejected by the adjutant officer for the second time and he truly doesn't know what to do.
"This usually doesn't affect haredi soldiers or hesder yeshiva students, because they have a strong organization that cares for them," added Rabbi Shayish. "But many religious soldiers whose beards are important to them are suddenly forced to remove them."