IDF spokesman Brigadier General Moti Almoz
IDF spokesman Brigadier General Moti AlmozFlash 90

IDF Human Resources Directorate Commander Moti Almoz met with the feminist Women's Lobby on Thursday and promised that the military would crack down on incidences of anti-female discrimination.

The meeting came after a platoon of religious paratroopers caused a media frenzy when they swiveled their backs in order to avoid seeing a female parachuting instructor demonstrate a drill.

During the meeting, Almoz told the Women's Lobby that he thinks female segregation is a serious problem and promised to take far-reaching steps to combat the issue.

"Incidences of excluding women in the IDF and hurting women is a serious command problem and we will not make do with declarations and headlines, but rather deal with the issue in a substantive way," said Almoz.

Almoz added that the IDF did not react as harshly as it should have to the incident with the religious paratroopers. "A stronger response from the IDF may have been necessary," he said.

Women's Lobby CEO Gera Margaliot welcomed Almoz's statements, saying that "ee know that the army's leadership is committed to equality for women in the IDF, and it is still not enough to handle individual treatment. IDF to deal with cases on the ground. "

During the aforementioned incident, religious troops from the Hesder program combining Torah study and IDF service had asked to be taught by a male instructor, as is customary in such cases. After a female instructor was brought instead, their commander ordered them to turn their backs to her as to not violate their religious beliefs.

Reports of the incident turned into a media frenzy, with journalists and MKs demanding that the troops be thrown out of combat service.

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.