Winning the struggle for religious rights in the IDF

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    Winning the struggle for religious rights in the IDF
    Despite meeting of Chief of Staff Eizenkot and leading Religious Zionist rabbis, CoS’ attitude towards Jewish tradition cannot be trusted.

    by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed

    Reports about the meeting between the Chief of Staff and the rabbinical leadership of the religious Zionist sector are not reassuring. As long as the Chief of Staff leaves the order requiring religious soldiers to listen to female singers intact, in essence, the basic po‎sition of the Joint Chief of Staff that Jews can be forced to violate their halakhic customs continues unchanged, and consequently, there is no heightened confidence in their ability to respect Jewish tradition and religious soldiers.

    The principle must be as clear as the afternoon sun: In the IDF, Jews are not forced to violate any religious law. From the time this principle was violated, all has been breached.

    A Revealing Incident: Filing a Complaint

    “In the wake of previous columns, we wanted to share with you, Rabbi, our story: We were two soldiers who performed our military service about ten years ago in the framework of a Hesder yeshiva, but not in a unit of ‘beinish’im’ (an acronym for “yeshiva students”). During our service, we encountered a lot of substantial and minor problems that are liable to trouble a religious soldier.

    “We were able to solve most of the problems by turning directly to our personal commanders. However, there were a few serious problems that they lacked sufficient willingness to resolve. We then found out about soldiers’ ombudsman for complaints, and we often used the services of this important organization. Contrary to what it seems, it’s a simple process that involves filling out a single form, free of charge.

    “We especially wanted to talk about one incident that surpassed all. We were two ‘beinish’im‘ in the operations room of our brigade, in an army base on the border between Israel and Egypt. True, the problem of infiltrators did not yet exist, and during routine hours our main preoccupation was training and contending with stray camels. The most difficult problem was Shabbat. Since we are talking about an active border, we found ourselves required to do countless tasks which at best, were not a matter of ‘pikuach nefesh’ (life-threatening situations where Shabbat laws are suspended), and at worst, were the result of the whim of one of the officers in the operation room, or in the field.

    “We made an attempt to complain, and tried to get solutions through our direct officers and those above them. After failing to receive a response, we turned to the IDF Rabbinate (at the brigade level, and at a higher level), but it took them a long time to answer, their response was extremely general, and it did not solve the problems on the ground.

    “In our distress, we decided to send a complaint to the ombudsman. Within a day and a half after sending the complaint, we were summoned to a meeting with the battalion commander, who shouted at us for about ten minutes, and in conclusion, informed us that he forbade us to complain in the future, unless the complaint passed through him first.

    “The minute we left his office, we sent another complaint about the ‘chutzpah’ (brazenness) of the battalion commander, who dared to forbid us to complain without his permission. Following the first complaint, a solution had already been found to the ‘chilul Shabbat’ [desecration of Shabbat] – a solution that had not been taken into previous consideration – but the attitude of all the commanders towards us was extremely hostile.

    “A few days later, when they came to check the second complaint, everyone began treating us respectfully, and creative methods were found to solve all the religious problems as well.”

    Footnote to the Letter: A Summary of the Torah’s Obligation to ‘Rebuke’

    This indeed is the fitting and right way to act. However, it should be noted that most soldiers are unable to stand up to their commanders with such courage. Nevertheless, it is essential for them to consult with their parents and rabbis in order to solve the problems during their service, and fulfill the Torah obligation to rebuke by filing a complaint – at the latest, after completing their service under those same commanders. If they do not submit a complaint, they have canceled a Torah mitzvah, and are also considered partners in all the harm their commanders caused in matters of religion.


    The biggest win for religious rights would be the right to refuse to serve the IDF.


    I agree with Joseph and would like to add that the halachic issues are only half the problem. The Esav like culture of the IDF is the other half.

    Avi K

    Joseph, Rabbi Zvi Tau said on this “The IDF is excellent. The IDF gives its soul, unlike one politician who opened his mouth and said we would stop enlisting. Gentlemen, that’s not us.I am afraid that provocateurs will come to say such things and this will cause even greater forms of destruction. It will only add more fuel to the fire and weaken the people of Israel and the State of Israel and the IDF.”


    But the whole idea of zionism was and is to established a nominally Jewish state free from Torah and Mitsvos. And the IDF is part of the state. To create an IDF that is not anti-Torah, one needs to create a non-zionist medinah.

    Note that in the United States, if some was prejudiced against Blacks or Hispanics (and note that frum Jews are a higher percentage of the Israeli population than Blacks or Hispanics are of the American population), the prejudiced person would be considered unacceptable to serve as an officer in the military, and probably would be largely excluded from any form of public service such as a member of the legislature. If Israel, including the IDF, were to give up zionism, the entire elite of society, and his includes those who run all government agencies, and especially the army, would be excluded. This is highly unlikely to happen. No matter how much the Religious zionist (and Modern Orthodox) yearn for Jewish state in which religious Jews are not discriminated against, those who rule Eretz Yisrael years for a state in which religious Jews are not present.


    Akuperma, so how do you explain the extensive government funding of yeshivas

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