A relatively rare letter published on Thursday evening and signed by a wide range of religious Zionist rabbis expresses concern over the inclusion of women in IDF combat units.
The rabbis say in the letter that they are troubled by an ongoing exclusion of observant soldiers, which has now culminated in the closure of almost half of the IDF to observant soldiers. The most prominent example of this, they say, is the artillery corps, which for years maintained gender specific battalions alongside mixed battalions, until Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi took office. The rabbis note that as of today, religious men are excluded from the artillery corps, and their rate in the corps stands at only a few percent, in stark contrast to their rate elsewhere.
The rabbis fear a similar process will occur in the infantry corps due to the establishment of mixed units.
The letter to the Chief of Staff reads, "In light of our experience as soldiers and commanders in the IDF, we believe that religious soldiers who adhere to halakhah cannot serve in a mixed combat unit, men and women together; this service will most likely lead to situations prohibited by halakhah."
The rabbis say they are very apprehensive about "the Chief of Staff's apparent decision to add more mixed units to the ones that currently exist in the infantry corps", which they say "brings us very close to an army of separate tribes."
The rabbis conclude the letter by stating that "if religious soldiers are excluded in some combat units, and if in other units the percentage of religious soldiers is particularly high, the IDF will become an army of tribes" and call on Chief of Staff Kochavi "to avoid these dangerous steps, and maintain the unity of the IDF and the unity of the people, according to the procedures that have always been accepted in the IDF."
The rabbis who signed the letter are:
Rabbi Chaim Druckman – Head of the Or Etzion Yeshiva, and head of the Center for Bnei Akiva Yeshivot
Rabbi Hananel Etrog – Head of the Shavei Hebron Yeshiva
Rabbi Amnon Bazak - Har Etzion Yeshiva
Rabbi Amichai Gordin - Har Etzion Yeshiva
Rabbi Yehuda Gilad – Head of the Ma'ale Gilboa Yeshiva
Rabbi Yehoshua Weizmann – Heaf of the Maalot Yeshiva, and Deputy Head of the Center for Bnei Akiva Yeshivot
Rabbi Ohad Teharlev – Head of Midreshet Lindenbaum
Rabbi Yigal Levinstein - Head of the Bnei David Eli Pre-Military Preparatory School
Rabbi Yaakov Meidan – Head of the Har Etzion Yeshiva
Rabbi Zalman Melamed – Head of the Beit El Yeshiva
Rabbi Chaim Navon – Midreshet Lindenbaum, the Bar Ilan Yeshiva, the Har Etzion Yeshiva
Rabbi Meir Nehorai – Midreshet Migdal Oz College, and chairman of the Beit Hillel Rabbinical Association
Rabbi Eli Sadan - Head of the Bnei David Eli Pre-Military Preparatory School
Rabbi Yehoshua Shapira – Head of the Ramat Gan Yeshiva
Rabbi Oury Cherki – Machon Meir