IDF entertainment - Dan Keinan - September 2011
A member of an IDF entertainment troupe singing during a performance in Rishon Letzion in 2007. Photo by Dan Keinan
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Rabbi Moshe Ravad, Chief Rabbi of Israel Air Force, who also heads a program which recruits Haredim into the air force, has asked on Tuesday to leave the program following the controversy of women singing in IDF events.

Lt. Col. Ravad’s decision comes a day after the IDF officially announced that it will not excuse religious soldiers from official army events that feature female soldiers singing.
In a letter published in the ultra-Orthodox website ladaat.net, Ravad said that “in recent months the personnel directorate decided to open up the rules and review them.” According to Ravad, “in the latest draft of the new rules, I saw that clauses meant to protect the soldier’s religious beliefs, and another clause that permits activity that may offend religious beliefs.”

Ravad said that “even though I received a promise that the laws will be reviewed again, in light of the current situation I cannot see myself being a part of the program as a rabbi and an adviser.”

IDF spokesman said in a statement that “as agreed a few months ago, the officer who serves as the IAF rabbi is scheduled to retire from the IDF in the summer of 2012. Contrary to the report, the officer has not requested to end his duty or his military service, but asked not to be responsible anymore for the Shahar program.”

In recent weeks, a number of controversial incidents have spurred the discussion over women’s equality in the public arena. The debate started following the refusal of a number of IDF soldiers to listen to a female soldier singing.

The debate continued with protests over the removal of images of women from advertisements and on buses in Jerusalem, disagreement on a public bus where women are forced to sit separately from men at the back of the vehicle, and a number of cases of segregation between the sexes in public places, such as at medical centers.

Following the forced removal of a female passenger from her bus seat by an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man on a public bus last week, Netanyahu condemned that incident too, saying that Israel “must protect its public space, and maintain its openness and safety for all citizens.”