A religious IDF soldier has become the latest victim of what appears to be a growing anti-religious policy in the military since IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-General Gadi Eizenkott assumed command a number of years ago.
The Golani Brigade solider was told “you are not religious enough” and must therefore shave, because when asked, he was not able to tell his commander the parsha hashavua.
According to the report filed by Chadashot News correspondent Yair Sherki, this was the only question posed to the soldier and the determination regarding his level of religiosity was made solely based on this.
A letter was sent to Colonel Sivan Bloch of Golani, in which Rabbi Yitzchak Weiss explains the soldier’s commander instructed him to shave based on the above-reported incident, since he “does not meet the criteria of a religious soldier who may sport a beard”, in the officer’s eyes.
The soldier grew his beard a year before entering the military. He refused to shave and will face a disciplinary hearing for insubordination. This is how they will punish him, for refusing a direct order, not because of the beard.
However, the Golani soldier turned to the Tzav Echad organization, and is being represented by Attorney Yael Totchani. She has already asked the officer who dealt with the soldier to provide detailed regulations which state how the military determines who is and is not religious and therefore, permitted to have a beard.
In her letter, attorney Totchani writes, “We view this matter with the utmost severity, a trend led by the chief of staff, according to which a soldier who wishes to sport a beard for religious reasons must face a ridiculous test. The IDF Rabbinate has decided to follow the instructions of the chief of staff, absurdly, without any clear criteria, when every military chaplain rav chooses to ask a soldier questions in halacha, and thus determines whether that soldier is ‘religious enough to grow a beard.’”
She insists the military is acting illegally, and the situation is unacceptable, asking a soldier the week’s parsha and making a determination regarding his religiosity solely on this.
The IDF Spokesman’s response: When a soldier asked to be permitted to have a beard for religious reasons, he is told he needs a letter from the unit’s rav attesting to his religious lifestyle. In this particular case, the soldier met with his rave on a number of occasions, and to date, the soldier did not receive permission to have a beard. The IDF respects the sensibilities of soldiers, religious and secular alike”.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)