Officials of a yeshiva program that combines Talmudic studies with IDF service on Tuesday issued a stern warning to the military about the continued integration of female soldiers into combat units, arguing the trend is pushing away religious men from joining the army.
The Council of the Yeshivot Hesder Association called on the emerging coalition government to push for agreements and legislations that would protect "the right and duty of religious law-observant soldier to serve in accordance with Halacha."
The council held an urgent nightly meeting dedicated to discussing the trend of mixing male and female soldiers in the Armored Corps' officers training course. A long list of influential rabbis signed the petition, aimed to pressure the emerging coalition into including this matter on its agenda. The Armored Corps is known to enlist a large percentage of the Hesder Yeshiva students who draft to the IDF.
"The Council of the Yeshivot Hesder Association opposes the growing trend of gender mixing in the IDF and the exclusion of the halacha-observant soldiers," the Hesder council wrote.
The inclusion of female soldiers in the IDF's Armored Corps has been a controversial matter for years. Recently, more and more steps have been taken to integrate women into these forces, one of them being the ability to partake in the corps' officers course.
The religious critics claim that mixing genders in the course, rather than establishing separate troops, contradicts earlier agreements with the IDF. Head rabbis have said this move breaches the trust between the religious public and the IDF, and some are even calling on their students to refuse to draft to the Armored Corps altogether.
"Let us hope for better days, for days in which Torah-learning soldiers will not be urged to be excluded from combat units, for days in which the IDF will honor its promises," wrote Rabbi Yaaqov Medan.
Israel Women's Network, a feminist non-organization which aims to advance the status of women in Israel, rejected the rabbis' claims. "You are all confused. The IDF is not excluding the religious soldiers, the Hesder Council is excluding us, the women.
"The Council is looking to create a space that's 'sterile' from women, and prevent us from serving the country the way we want to. Whoever protects the 'right' of a certain public sector by hiding away women, is actively contributing to the spreading of separation and normalization of the perception that sees us as a sexual objects, and not equal human beings."