IDF rabbi: We should exempt religious troops from events where women sing
Rabbi Maj. Menachem Perle says forcing religious soldiers to break Jewish law unjustified.
The Israel Defense Forces' head of Halacha (Jewish Law) has said that religious soldiers should be exempt from participating in army ceremonies that include appearances by female singers.
Rabbi Maj. Menachem Perle's stated this after a female singer from the army band sang a number of songs at a rehearsal for the final ceremony for a course of soldiers from the Kfir infantry brigade, which includes the religious Nahal Haredi battalion and a number of platoons of students from Jewish seminaries.
One of the soldiers present at the ceremony later posted a question to the military rabbi via the Web site Yeshiva, asking if it was permissible by Jewish law to remain in the audience during the appearance of the female singer.
He also pointed out that a number of religious soldiers had left the hall when the female singer came up to the stage during the ceremony.
Perle said the prohibition on listening to female singers was based on the halachic ruling that kol haisha arve (the voice of a woman is shameful, or sexual).
"According to the letter of the law there is no way to permit religious soldiers to listen to a female singer, even in a military ceremony," Rabbi Maj. Perle said.
"However, we permit begrudgingly for the professional commander and officer whose participation in the ceremony is essential, to stay in the hall during the appearance," Perle said.
Perle said there is no justification to force religious officers and soldiers to be present when female singers appear, or to compel them to stand there in opposition to religious observance.
"The organizers of the ceremony should be conscious of the problem and should find a way to be creative to a solution of freeing religious soldiers from the general ceremony or part of it... or by means of changing the substance of the ceremony itself," Perle said.
In response, MK Avshalom Vilan (Meretz) sent an angry letter to IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, calling Perle's behavior scandalous and arguing that it humiliates women.
The Meretz MK requested that Ashkenazi intervene personally in the matter.
"This stands in opposition to the directives of the General Staff and constitutes an affront to the intelligence and casts a stain on the reputation of 52 percent of the population," Vilan told Haaretz.