Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu,
one of the main opponents of girls' enlistment to the IDF,
has announced the establishment of an educational-informative body which would operate inside national-religious educational institutions and warn students in religious girls' high schools against the "danger of serving in the IDF."
He also called on the institutions' principals not to allow associations encouraging enlistment to the army to present their "propaganda" inside the schools.
Eliyahu, the chief rabbi of the northern city of Safed, a member of the Chief Rabbinate Council and one of the leaders of the conservative camp in the Religious Zionism movement, said in a letter to principals of the girls' schools that "military service is inappropriate for a Jewish girl," as it makes her encounter situations which "negatively affect her faith and harm her emotionally, and unfortunately also physically.
"We are here to stress the complete prohibition against girls going to the army," he wrote. "Military service causes great damage to girls' faith and values… The Chief Rabbinate Council, in its recent council meeting, reiterated the ban on girls serving in the army as well."
The rabbi revealed that he was working to establish a body that would visit schools and explain to 12th grade girls about "the dangers lurking in the military service." He said he wanted the principals to partake in the action. "We will soon convene a large gathering of principals to strengthen and encourage you in this important mission," he added.
Rabbi Eliyahu argued in his letter that associations encouraging girls to choose military service were presenting them with "false data, as if girls who go to the army gather strength during the service."
He added, "We recommend that the educational institutions refuse to open their gates to associations encouraging military service."
He said he has spoken with institution heads, girls who served in the army and regretted it, and parents of religious female soldiers, and that "they all mentioned the great difficulty in a religious girl's service in a mixed, secular system, which evokes an atmosphere of frivolity and mixture between the sexes."
The rabbi concluded by calling on the principals to "strengthen among the girls the desire and need to serve the people and the country out of sanctity, and in light of the great values they have been educated on," and encourage them "to look for high-quality places of service which fundamentally protect the sacredness of the daughter and provide a suitable spiritual atmosphere of Torah."
In the past, almost the entire religious public had obeyed a ruling issued by the Chief Rabbinate and prominent Religious Zionism rabbis, which banned women from serving in the army, but recent years have seen an erosion in this traditional stance – at first when girls who graduated from the religious education system joined the IDF on their own accord, and later on when special systems were established to encourage girls to enlist – with rabbinical support.
Religious-Zionist movement Ne'emanei Torah Va'Avodah responded to Rabbi Eliyahu's letter by sending a letter of its own to the education minister and to heads of the State-Religious Education Administration, calling on them to provide a proper stage for guiding 12th grade girls upon their graduation.
In the letter, the movement presented data on religious girls' enlistment and figures showing that most girls gained strength in many ways during their military service.
In light of these figures, the movement urged the State-Religious Education Administration to "set clear procedures which will provide a respectable stage for each side, which will be given to those capable of respecting the other person's opinion and the civilized rules of disagreement, showing mutual respect and without slandering and offensive statements.
"The State-Religious Education Administration must ensure that those entering its gates can respectfully present their opinion and the opinion of those who disagree with them."