With no clear directive on the issue of facial hair for religious IDF soldiers, a number of observant recruits have been entangled in army red-tape, with some being forced to abandon a very visible element of their religious lifestyle.
Despite efforts to induct large numbers of haredi recruits, the army continues to use a poorly defined system for granting waivers to religious soldiers, exempting them from regulations regarding shaving. As it stands, officers are given broad discretionary powers to approve or deny soldiers’ requests, leaving some religious servicemen with no choice but to remove their beards – or face disciplinary actions, including jail.
On Wednesday, the father of a haredi Hassidic soldier who was recently conscripted to the army described one of the latest incidents to Arutz Sheva.
His son was reportedly told to shave off his beard before beginning basic training and found himself powerless to fight the obtuse command.
The 19-year-old conscript, a scion of one of the major Hassidic groups in the country, was recently drafted into the IDF.
On Wednesday the new recruit was summoned to the Tel Hashomer base, where he was to board a bus and ship out for basic training. To his amazement, however, he was told to get off the bus and shave off his beard, or produce a certificate exempting him from the shaving requirement.
Unfamiliar with the army’s regulations regarding facial hair, the soldier did not know what to do and consulted with his family who involved officials who assist haredi soldiers in the matter. Only after a few hours the soldier got permission to grow a beard and was then sent home as he had "mistakenly" been assigned to a regular unit. Later he was summoned again and assigned to a unit consisting of haredi soldiers.
"I can't begin to understand how the army wants to deal with haredi conscription if it shows such terrible insensitivity about such fundamental things in the life of a haredi Jew as a beard" said the father in an Arutz Sheva interview.
"How is it that the rules are so insensitive and do not distinguish between different types of soldiers? He did in the end get a permit but only after I consulted haredi activists who work with the IDF. Why did he have to go through all of this on his first day of basic training? If this is the way the first step of a Hasidic soldier in the IDF looks, what further spiritual pitfalls will he face in the future?" concluded the disconsolate father.