The decision by the Israel Defense Forces senior command to freeze implementation of the Segev Report, which recommended establishing full equality among men and women in the army (as reported by Amos Harel in Haaretz on Wednesday), is another aggravating example of the IDF's continuing capitulation to the demands of religious extremist rabbis and officers.

Women's service in the IDF is the clearest symbol we have of the State of Israel's secular character. The right of women to serve in the IDF with full equality, to fully utilize their abilities and fulfill their personal ambitions in all the tasks that are open to men, stems naturally from the fact that the law requires them to serve, just like men.

Israeli society over the past 20 years has undergone a dramatic process of change with regard to the status of women in general, and in the army in particular. It's hard to even recall an era before the law against sexual harassment, which the IDF implements with particular impeccability, or before the High Court of Justice petition brought by Alice Miller, which forced the army to open its elite units and most combat roles to women.

The stereotypical waitress - whose name was always "Sweetie," and who served coffee with a smile while suffering harassment in silence - is now a part of the IDF's less-than-stellar past. Women are now pilots, sailors, combat instructors and intelligence and telecommunications officers, and those are only some of the jobs they fill.

Proper integration of women in the army still has a way to go, but now it seems to have hit a barrier erected by a political group that wants to drag the army and all of Israeli society back into the Dark Ages.

This obstacle joins a list of recent shameful acts that boot women into some dark corner, silencing their voices and painting their service in an ugly light. These acts, which have been going by the euphemism "exclusion of women," sharply contravene the basic rights of every citizen.

This isn't humiliation just for the fun of it; there is a clear motive behind it. There are rabbis who want women to get so fed up with army service that they would prefer to evade it.

And when, at the same time, army chaplains rudely interfere with education officers with their "secular" values, and when the right promotes a bill to assure "immunity from women's singing in the IDF," it's clear that the goal is to turn the IDF into a male, "more Jewish" army, pure and closed off in accordance with Jewish religious law.

No longer then would it be the people's army, but the rabbis' army.

קראו כתבה זו בעברית: צבא הרבנים