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Drafting women in Israeli army


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Elul 19, 5773
Dear rabbi, I saw an answer in the site about women in the army and it doesn’t seem to make sense. If there is an issue with tsniut because she is under the authority of men, then based on that rationale, women couldn’t have ANY job besides being the CEO of a major company, and even then we could argue that some people could command them. I don’t think that the army constitutes a threat to religiosity; and if someone becomes less or non-religious after joining the army, I dare say it was pretty likely they were going to end up that way anyway.
Shalom and thank you for your important question! Anyone who has served in the army knows that there’s no comparison whatsoever in civilian life to the commander-soldier relationship. It’s not at all a boss-employee association, but much closer to a master-servant correlation. Although the Israeli army is more friendly and moral than probably any army in the world, here too that unquestioning and absolute discipline is needed. You won’t find a more military-minded and Zionist posek than General Rav Shlomo Goren, former Chief Rabbi of Tzahal and of Israel, but even he and all other recognized poskim, do not allow for women to serve in the army for the following reasons: *the aforementioned problematic relationship between young male commanders and young female soldiers; *the especially tense, filthy, sleepless, and sometimes even dangerous and violent atmosphere which, during breaks, causes an extremely loose environment where almost everybody behaves differently than they do in civilian life; *especially when 18 year old boys and girls are away from home together for the first time; *the minimal (or even negative) contribution of women to combat units (objectively lowering speed and physical demands, distracting the fighters, resulting in an incessant atmosphere of flirting, light-headedness, jealousy among boyfriends, etc., as is the norm among 18 year old boys and girls), and the lack of need for them in non-combat units (so many non-religious don’t want to go to combat units that there’s an excess of staff in the “jobnick” office divisions). All of the above, which unfortunately is borne out by my personal and first-hand experience, also explain why the Hesder Yeshivot and Nachal Haredi are so successful and necessary, not only for the religiosity and manners of those soldiers, but also for the benefit of Tzahal, as well. To have some super-motivated and mission-minded units who keep their attention on the military tasks, without distractions, flirting, and lowering any physical standards and demands just to please some political, feminist, and social (often anti-military) agendas. It also explains why boys, especially outside of those expressly religious units, also often have religious and behavioral difficulties in or after the army. Nevertheless, the major difference is that we have no choice regarding the boys needed for the combat units in this Milchemet Mitzva, while the girls can and should fill a similar but different important national need, in Sherut Le’umi. This is not to say, chalila, that all or even most boys or girls come out of the army with “damage”, or God forbid, to give them a bad name, but it explains why all of the poskim across the board, don’t want girls serving in the army. Theoretically, this may eventually change, but in the meantime, even though it may not be “politically correct”, one can’t deny the reality that all of the poskim agree that it’s better for young woman to contribute in the framework of National Service (Sherut Le’umi). Hopefully you can now understand the rationale. With Love of Israel, Rav Ari Shvat ,
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