The IDF clarified its modesty guidelines for its female conscripts amid increasingly louder calls attacking the regulations as discriminatory.
In order to ensure that religious soldiers can serve in the military without compromising on their beliefs, the IDF has the 'Joint Service' order which regulates interaction between troops of the opposite gender. The regulations include forbidding physical contact between the sexes, mandatory separate sleeping quarters, and rules defining appropriate attire while on base.
Within the past few months, the various regulations have been under attack after the anti-religious 'Secular Forum' launched a campaign contending that the IDF is segregating female soldiers in order to please observant troops. One aspect of the order outlawing female conscripts from wearing white undershirts has been under particular assault, with parents of soldiers serving in the armored corps rallying earlier this month against the order.
In wake of the uproar, IDF Human Resources Directorate Commander Moti Almoz sent a military-wide missive on Sunday clarifying that commanders are forbidden from changing the order in any way.
"In the wake of a number of reports of a number of cases in which commanders decided to tighten the rules of appearance and clothing written in the orders, for example by prohibiting women soldiers from wearing a white shirt or prohibiting wearing bathing suits in pool areas, unnecessarily hurt large groups of servicewomen," wrote Almoz.
The Human Resouces head added that "the orders regarding appearance, dress and the common service are binding orders, and they must be acted upon as they are written. No commander may decide on his own to harshen or lighten them."
The issue is part of a larger debate regarding the role of religion in Israel's public sphere. Over the past year, numerous stories have surfaced in the media concerning alleged cases of increasing religious coercion in Israel. Led by the radical Secular Forum, the stories have targeted courses in Jewish history and tradition in the school system, the influence of the IDF's military rabbinate, and popular Lag Baomer events given by Chabad at malls all across Israel.
Many of the stories have focused on the IDF, as the number of religious soldiers and officers continues to climb. In early July, Haaretz published a story last week contending that religious IDF officers were preventing secular families from Shabbat visits at training bases. A week before that, Ynet ran a story highlighting the plight of a military cook who was punished after preparing food on Shabbat, which is contrary to regulations.