The instructor, Noa, is the daughter of the head of the IDF's Operations Directorate, Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva, and journalist Shira Margalit.
According to Margalit, while her daughter was demonstrating how to perform an exercise, some 50 of the 70 soldiers she was instructing turned their backs to her because she is a woman. "This wasn't a group of Haredim," Margalit stressed. "This is the abysmal reality."
The IDF Spokesman's Office said that "During a training lesson at the Paratroopers Brigade's parachuting course, a female instructor demonstrated an exercise to the soldiers from a platoon consisting of Hesder Yeshiva students. Some 30 soldiers who did not wish to view the demonstration by a female soldier turned their heads.
“In light of the incident, their commander gathered the platoon for a talk during which he explained to them that according to IDF code of behavior there may not be separation between male and female instructors during the parachute course and that any cadet who is caught behaving disrespectfully towards a female instructor will be removed from the course.
“The IDF is the national people’s army and unity of the ranks is emphasized in all types of activities, regardless of religion, race or gender. The IDF sees importance in realizing its mission, while emphasizing an egalitarian and national view,” the statement said.
The Association of Hesder Yeshivot responded to the paratroopers’ incident calling it “fake news,” and saying that contrary to what has been reported, the soldiers officers were the ones responsible, as they had directly ordered the soldiers to stand with their backs to the female instructor. The association also protested the “defamation against religiously observant soldiers, especially those serving in the Hesder track.”
Earlier, Ynet reported that the mixed gender Panther Battalion received an order to leave a swimming pool so as not to offend religious soldiers during a military retreat at a resort in Ashkelon.
After a series of incidents that some viewed as involving bias towards female enlistees, the IDF’s Head of Personnel Division Maj. Gen Moti Almoz send a letter to all IDF commanders cautioning against the phenomenon.
Almoz wrote: “Considering certain reports regarding commanders choosing to be overly stringent regarding the dress code, for example forbidding female recruits from wearing white shirts or banning swimsuits in the pool area, these stringencies are contrary to IDF orders and policy; they unnecessarily harm wide sectors of those serving and are incompatible with the responsibility conferred upon IDF commanders.
“No commander is permitted to unilaterally decide to be more stringent regarding IDF orders,” Almoz clarified. “Orders regarding dress code and co-ed service are binding and must be adhered to. The IDF’s commanders are first-rate and are expected to find the “golden path” that will allow for a respectful service for all the soldiers under their command. “
The letter was issued in response to a series of complaints from female soldiers, serving in various capacities in the IDF, compiled by the Secular forum and the Israel Women’s Lobby.
The soldiers complained of instances where they felt discriminated against by the army, especially vis-à-vis religious soldiers and their sensitivities. Many of the complaints are a result of the implementation of the Joint Service Order issued by Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot which has been the target of both religious and secular criticism.