The incident took place on Monday evening during an event focusing on Operation Cast Lead, which was attended by hundreds of cadets slated to receive an officer's rank in about a month, many of whom are affiliated with the Religious Zionism movement.
At some point during the evening, two female soldiers got up to sing. When one of them began singing solo, dozens of religious soldiers got up and turned to leave the auditorium.
"It was spontaneous. We know it's forbidden, but we left quietly without coordinating it," one of them told Yedioth Ahronoth on Tuesday. But Regiment Commander Uzi Klieger tried to stop them from leaving, threatening to punish anyone who walked out.
Some of the soldiers returned to their seats, while 10 left the auditorium in spite of the regiment commander's threats. On Tuesday evening, the 10 soldiers were summoned by the training base commander, Colonel Eran Niv.
It turns out that before the event, two of the soldiers asked not to participate in it and were refused. They are not expected to receive a harsher punishment.
The soldiers told Colonel Niv that "if this incident has anything to do with our abilities as officers, it is that being strict about the rules of Halacha proves that we will be better officers. You could have been more sensitive toward us, as this is a well-known problem, and all we asked was that female soldiers wouldn't sing alone."
The training base's commander told them that he viewed the incident as extremely severe and that soldiers, and especially officers, are required to carry out orders. This was not an illegal order, he added.
Bone of contention
On Tuesday, the soldiers did not take part in a regimental activity held in a different base and were told to wait for the commander's decision as to their punishment.
The IDF Spokesperson's Office said in response, "In this incident cadets deviated from the army's orders. The entire matter is being looked into and conclusions will be made in the coming days by the Ground Forces and training base commanders. The performance of all members of military bands is an inseparable part of the IDF milieu."
The issue of women's singing is one of the most difficult bones of contention between the IDF and religious soldiers. This isn't the first time troops leave military ceremonies for this reason, and they have been punished for it in the past.
According to the General Staff orders, a religious soldier is entitled not to take part in recreational activity which contradicts his lifestyle and faith, but the orders do not apply to non-recreational military events.
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