Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, a leading religious-Zionist rabbi, has called on his followers not to enlist in army units containing both men and women, even if this means refusing an order.
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Aviner made the statement in response to a question from a yeshiva student on the website Kippa.
The student said he was considering enlisting but was concerned about the mixing of men and women in the army.
Its a great mitzvah to go into the army and at the same time uphold the Torahs instruction that men and women should keep very far away from one other, Aviner responded.
The student then noted: Unfortunately, this is not the reality. Many yeshiva students fail to uphold the prohibition against touching; also with hugging.
Aviner replied: If so, one should request a unit where there are no women, such as an elite combat unit, or a Haredi unit — a unit of ultra-Orthodox soldiers.
The student argued that this was not possible because not every soldier is suited for an elite combat unit, and the separate Haredi units only accept Haredim — not, for example, religious Zionists.
Aviner replied: If thats the case, then unfortunately, for now, one shouldnt go to the army. Either a separate unit or dont enlist for now.
So then were rebelling against the IDF? — the Israel Defense Forces, the student asked.
God forbid, Aviner answered. We dearly love the IDF and will surely enlist when the problem is corrected.
Aviner went on to complain that the IDF deliberately mixes men and women. In the army there is an ideal from the start to mix men and women, he said. Theyre making it worse by establishing mixed units with the idea of forcing religious soldiers to serve there. This has nothing to do with the army. Its a trend and the army is being used as a way to impose it.
Aviner said the situation had never been this serious.
In reserve duty, too, girls wander among the soldiers in immodest dress, he said. This is a new problem. Even if everyone in our country does as he pleases, you cant have coercion to commit sins in the army. Some people shout against religious coercion. Why not shout against coercion to sin? For now, lets be patient, and when the situation is corrected well enlist with dedication.
Aviner, a leading figure in religious Zionism, belongs to the stream that is considered both Haredi and religious-Zionist. He is considered a big supporter of army service and does not have a record of calling on soldiers to refuse an order to evacuate settlements.
At the same time, his approach on matters of modesty between men and women is considered stringent, as seen, for example, in his calling for gender separation in the Bnei Akiva youth movement as well as in the army.