Kfir Brigage (illustrative)
Kfir Brigage (illustrative)IDF Spokesperson

A combat soldier in the Kfir Brigade was tried and sent to 20 days in prison because he did not shave his beard during the counting of the Omer, in accordance with Jewish custom.

The brother of the soldier responded on Facebook, asking, "How can my brother, who wants to keep his tradition and his father's custom, be punished for this? From what I understand, army regulations say that only those fulfilling a religious lifestyle may receive an ‘Omer exemption’ [allowing them not to shave their beards]. I wanted to know who defines a religious lifestyle?

"Since when is the IDF the one that determines your level of Jewishness and which commandments are you permitted to observe and which you are not?" asked the soldier's brother.

The brother stressed that there is a large traditional public in Israel that is not addressed by the IDF. "I appeal to you not only for my little brother, but also for a large community in Israel that is traditional. We, the Jewish people, are divided into many shades, and that is what distinguishes us. There is no black and white here, there is one who only keeps the laws of Kashrut, another keeps Shabbat, and a another doesn’t keep anything. Each has his own path.”

"Therefore, every person should be given, as much as possible, the opportunity to maintain his way of life. I understand the claim that this leads everyone [whether or not he is religious] to ask for an exemption from shaving, but it can’t be decided that, as a result, no one is granted an exemption. That's not the solution!"

The IDF Spokesperson stated in response: "According to regulations, a soldier who maintains a religious lifestyle is entitled to grow a beard during the Omer. In this case, the soldier does not observe a religious lifestyle and therefore is not entitled to this exemption."