Religious soldier
Religious soldier Flash 90

A senior Religious Zionist rabbi who founded the first-ever pre-military preparatory program launched a scathing attack on the IDF, contending that the army was forcing religious officers to choose between an army career and observing Jewish law.

In a wide-ranging speech, Eli pre-military academy head Rabbi Eli Sadan called the IDF's latest Joint Service Order "a destruction decree" whose purpose was to advance pluralist values at the expense of the IDF's readiness. Religious Zionist rabbis have been opposing the Joint Service Order that regulates relations between men and woman because it forces a religious officer to command units compromised of men and women.

"What the Joint Service Order says is that from the minute you go to IDF Officer School, you become IDF property and the IDF's Manpower Head can decide if you can keep halakha (Jewish law )," Sadan told his students. "If you don't want to command a mixed unit of men and women for fear of violating Jewish laws, the Manpower Head will 'consider' your request."

Sadan also addressed reports earlier this week that IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkott ignored his appeals to change the Joint Service Order. "The army decides that it is suddenly extremely important for a male soldier to command female soldiers," he said." All the rabbis and I explained to the chief of staff and to the forum of senior army officers that for the 70 years since the establishment of the State of Israel there was no law obligating a religious person to violate religious law."

On Monday Maariv reported that Eizenkot has decided to reject appeals from the Religious Zionist sector to nix changes to army guidelines and allow religiously-observant IDF officers to refuse to take command positions over female soldiers due to modesty issues which transgress halakha. According to the report, the wording of the controversial new directive will be changed slightly to mollify religious soldiers, but no substantive changes will be made.

The report also claimed that Eizenkot met last Friday with four left-wing Knesset members who are pushing for greater integration of women in the IDF - Merav Michaeli and Ayelet Nahmias-Horbin from the Zionist Union and Tamar Zandberg and Michal Rozin of Meretz.

The new guidelines, which are called the Joint Service Order, has raised alarm among religious soldiers, who contend that their religious rights are being trampled on. Unlike the existing policy, the Joint Service Order does not exempt soldiers from any activity considered to be heritage education or from military memorial ceremonies, even if they include women singing, a halakhic problem for observant soldiers. Decisions regarding other activities will be subject to the commander's discretion. The IDF previously allowed soldiers whose level of religious observance did not permit hearing women singing to decide not to attend.those performances.

Sadan founded the Eli pre-military yeshiva and has educated thousands of IDF officers and soldiers in elite units.