Girlfriends, the Time Has Come

It's clear why the chief rabbi doesn't want females serving in the army. He wants them obedient to rabbis' authority, modest and pure for marriage, serving their husbands in sanctity.

"A priori, women should not serve in the army," said Israel Defense Forces Chief Military Rabbi Brig.-Gen. Avichai Rontzki two weeks ago, and he was right.

Yes, yes, he was right. I'd like to back him up and call on the military establishment not to recruit females into the IDF, but not for the same reasons.

It's clear why the chief rabbi doesn't want females serving in the army. He wants them obedient to rabbis' authority, modest and pure for marriage, serving their husbands in sanctity and purity, with no one else having already made use of them. In this the chief rabbi joins many other rabbis in the dispute over the question: Who do the women serve, rabbis or commanders?

We once believed that in an "army which has a state," the inclusion of women would serve as a basis for equality; that it would give them the same springboard into public life and positions of influence it gives to our outstanding young men. That's what Alice Miller (who successfully petitioned the Israel Air Force to open the pilot's course to women, only to flunk out) fought for, as did feminist organizations and Knesset members who pushed through laws for allowing females into virtually every IDF position, including combat roles. But reality and research prove otherwise.

In reality, military service is an impressive study on the subjugation and coercion of women. In the army, where the majority of women fill service roles and almost all key command posts - some of them still completely closed to women - are left in the hands of men, it's quite clear who is in charge and who takes a back seat, who is working for whom.

Women leave army service having learned that lesson exceedingly well, and embark on civilian life having internalized that message. Some even follow the commander and adhere to the "romantic" power relationship for the rest of their lives. As such, women leave the IDF significantly weaker than when they enlisted.

During their own service, men learn the same lesson well. They too internalize who draws the line and who toes it, who wields power and who bows to it. They too enter civilian life with this same knowledge and behave accordingly. In this way the army creates a society far more patriarchal than it would have been had it not been crushed by this hierarchical steamroller. It is a hierarchy with the exalted warrior at its head, and women rendering services at its tail: folding parachutes, offering coffee and consolation, and providing legitimacy for sexual harassment.

Sociologist Dr. Orna Sasson-Levy of Bar-Ilan University has shown in her research that even those women serving in traditionally male positions don't escape this trap. Instead, they imitate the behavior of the male combat soldier, distance themselves from other female soldiers and disregard the significance of sexual harassment. As long as women who are successful in the army adopt its basic values, they will not change its male-dominated hierarchy.

Why do we insist on being part of this men's game? After all, as Sasson-Levy defines it, "An army is an organization intended to inflict violence, controlled by experts on violence." As early as 1914 feminists were writing that,"As long as military thought dominates, women have no chance in society." In these pages 15 years ago, Orit Shochat urged the women's lobby to demand the release of females from IDF service.

Indeed, my female friends, the time has come. I thus join the chief rabbi's call to the state: Don't draft women into the IDF.