Soldiers and yeshiva students from severa Hesder yeshivas have called on Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz to reconsider his order to forbid religious troops from leaving official IDF ceremonies that include women singing.
The students have also warned against creating a "needless and dangerous precedent" that could seriously damage the relationship between the IDF and the religious public.
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The letter, sent to Gantz on Monday after it was first circulated among the students, claimed that "enforcing the attendance of religious soldiers when women are singing is in direct opposition to the Jewish Halacha and is in fact secular coercion, which goes against the principles of liberty, equality and justice in general and the spirit of the IDF particularly."
A copy of the letter was sent to the IDF Chief Rabbi Brigadier General Raffi Peretz.
Those behind the move, students at the Sha'albim hesder yeshiva, claimed that the decision reached by the General Staff Forum last week was offensive and prevent religious soldiers him from properly observing their lifestyle. They noted that the IDF's meticulousness in allowing the soldiers a setting that would allow them to keep a religious lifestyle is what enabled thousands of yeshiva students to enlist in the military.
The hesder students stressed that the attempt to link situations in which soldiers leave a ceremony when a woman sings to cases of women's exclusion from the public sphere in Israel was an "imbecilic act" with the purpose of presenting religious soldiers as extremists.
The students made it clear that they are not opposed to the fact that women sing during military ceremonies and do not wish to force the Halachic opinion on the public in general, rather they are only seeking to allow soldiers to leave those ceremonies in a dignified and discreet manner – and only as long as the singing lasts.
"We are launching a fervent call to the military leaders and decision makers: Please, stop this form escalating and don't breach the status-quo which has existed successfully for dozens of years," they said in their letter. "Anti-religious commands create an impossible reality for a religious soldier after which, the future remains unknown."
Zuriel Gabizon, a Sha'albim hesder student and one of the letter's institutors told Ynet that several of the hesders rabbis encouraged him to write the letter after they were disappointed by their colleagues and the yeshiva unions for failing to take up the struggle against the chief of staff's decision.
According to Gabizon, many have already signed the petition and he believes that a majority of yeshiva students and hesder soldiers – including those from the more moderate yeshivas – will join them thanks to the letter's matter of fact approach.
Gabizon added that the IDF's decision to anchor fix the issue as a direct order could in fact encourage soldiers to make a demonstratively walk out on events where women are set to sing due to their sense that the IDF is seeking a confrontation between secular law and Torah.
Yet if they are permitted to leave – many will stay seated and will find creative solutions for the Halachic problem.
Meanwhile, Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz said he will meet with the hesder students behind the letter. IDF rabbis are also scheduled to take part in the meeting.
Hershkowitz said he will try to dissuade the troops from confronting the IDF over the matter: "The chief military rabbi's ruling should prevail in any religious issue that comes up in the army," he said.
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