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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

IDF commanders not concerned about 'religious radicalism'

We've heard a lot of stories lately about how the IDF is having 'problems' with religious soldiers because of an incident involving women singing. In fact, on Monday, Haaretz (probably the most anti-religious newspaper among the dailies in Israel) reported that 19 commanders had sent a letter to the IDF warning of 'religious radicalism.' But JPost reports that those 19 are unusual and most IDF commanders don't see a problem.
The growing media focus on the story has forced Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz to order the Manpower Directorate to conduct a thorough review of the integration of women in the IDF.

“This is an issue that needs clarification, and until Gantz sets new guidelines the situation will likely get worse,” one officer explained.

The prominence of Orthodox officers in the army has been growing in recent years. In the Golani Brigade, for example, the brigade commander, a colonel, is religious, and out of the seven lieutenant-colonels, all but one are religious.

In the Paratroop Brigade, the situation is vastly different. There, the brigade commander and all but one of the lieutenant-colonels are secular, although all of the deputy battalion commanders – who can be called “battalion commanders to be” – are mostly Orthodox.

Nevertheless, brigade commanders in the IDF are generally dismissive of the claims that the army is undergoing religious radicalization.

Two brigade commanders, in conversations with The Jerusalem Post, said that they believed the phenomenon was marginal and was not indicative of the general religious population in the IDF.

“These appear to be isolated cases,” one brigade commander said last week. “People have to be smart, and that includes rabbis who are educating these soldiers, and commanders who are in charge of them. We have to know what we can do and what we can’t do.”

Another brigade commander said that he did not look under the helmets of his subordinates when considering them for promotions and appointments.

“Soldiers need to be judged according to the way they fight and how they are as leaders,” the brigade commander said.
And the IDF is looking to recruit more ultra-Orthodox soldiers for whom mixing with women is not an issue: There are no women in or near their units.
While the relationship between Orthodox and female soldiers will continue to be examined, the IDF is looking to increase the number of ultra-Orthodox soldiers it recruits. There are currently about 2,000 ultra-Orthodox soldiers in the army, in the Netzah Yehuda Battalion – also known as Nahal Haredi – and in technical positions in the air force, the C4I (command, control, communications, computers, and (military) intelligence) Directorate and Military Intelligence.

That number is expected to grow over the coming year, with plans by Military Intelligence, for example, to reach 1,000 ultra- Orthodox recruits as programmers and computer specialists. The funding for the enlistment of ultra-Orthodox soldiers is provided by the Treasury and is independent of the IDF’s budget.
Shortly after the State was established, its first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, met with Rabbi Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz, popularly known as the Chazon Ish, who was the leader of the ultra-Orthodox community of the time. Karelitz made Ben Gurion a simple offer: If Ben Gurion made the army all male, Rabbi Karelitz would order all the yeshiva boys to serve in the army. Ben Gurion refused, and the rest is history.

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At 7:02 PM, Blogger Adina said...

What is the source for the story of the Chazon Ish?

At 12:07 AM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


I read it in a biography of the Chazon Ish, but I have also heard many times from rabbis here.

At 4:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Carl, but the main point of the article is that the IDF does anticipate absorbing a healthy religious ultra-orthodox cohort without sacrificing female participation, as suggested by the Chazon Ish (and does not believe it needs to exempt orthodox soldiers and commanders generally from social interaction with women).


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