The recent controversy sparked when four hesder yeshiva soldiers refused to participate in a class given by female instructors seems to refuse to calm down, as dozens of rabbis and educators in the Religious Zionism published a halachic manifest Sunday, stating such mixed classes pose "a grave problem".
The manifest, signed by 32 prominent religious figures of the likes of former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, Rabbi Dov Lior, Rabbi Zalman Malmad, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, Rabbi Israel Ariel, Rabbi Abraham Zukerman and Rabbi Israel Rosen, to name a few, calls on the IDF to refrain from imposing such classes on religious soldiers.
Israel's soldiers must keep the mitzvah of observing modesty, said the manifest, adding that "over the past few years, the military has demonstrated a laps in morals, by allowing more and more classes to be given by female instructors, and endorsing male and female integration in more of its units."
Such moves, continues the manifest, along with the soldiers young age and their being away from home for long periods of time, pose "a grave problem", since their daily – and nightly – encounters with women in the service "go well beyond the norms of civil life."
The rabbis end the manifest by calling on IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi and Defense Minister Ehud Barak "to refrain from forcing any soldier to take part in activities involving women or attending classes given by female instructors."
Prior to the manifest's publication, Rabbi Zalman Malmad gave the soldiers, who were eventually sentenced to 21 days in a military prison for disobeying an order, a ringing endorsement in his weekly column in the religious publication Bsheva, praising "their bravery and willingness to pay a personal price for their convictions."
Rabbi Malmad further warned that should the military insist on ignoring the religious public's halachic needs, "many may decide to take more radical action and follow their haredi brethren's suit by not joining the army at all."