The head of a pre-military academy in the West Bank settlement of Eli spoke out last week against military service for Orthodox girls. In a lecture to young male students, captured on video and broadcast by Channel 10 television, Rabbi Yigal Levinstein said: “They’re driving our girls crazy. They draft them. They go in Jewish and they’re not Jewish when they come out; not in terms of genetics. Their whole system of values becomes confused, their priorities – home, career. They’ll make them all crazy. Agreeing to this is forbidden.”
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Levinstein had a close relationship to Israel Defense Forces commanders until he spoke out publicly last summer against the IDF policy of treating gay soldiers in an egalitarian manner, and called gay people “perverts.” Since then, the army has not allowed Levinstein to lecture to soldiers.
Levinstein was harshly criticized at the time by members of the national religious camp, including the chairman of Habayit Hayehudi, Education Minister Naftali Bennett.
About a week ago, speaking to students at Eli who had come from another pre-military academy, Otzem, which is ideologically close to the Eli academy, he once again criticized the army on a variety of issues, focusing mainly on women.
“Bamahane is the army magazine. For a decade I’ve seen pictures only of girls,” Levinstein told the young men, who are soon to be drafted. “I ask myself, are there any male soldiers in the army? I never see pictures of boys. And if there are, they’re with girls and all of them in camouflage paint ... Somebody told me ‘Don’t worry, they’re practicing for their wedding, putting on makeup.’ I don’t know who will marry her. She’ll tell her children stories at night about battles ‘We lay in ambush, we threw grenades’ the kid will make her nervous That’s called new families, right? Two fathers. An insane asylum, simply an insane asylum.”
Levinstein prefaced his remarks against drafting women by saying: “So what if she’ll be a company commander? It’s craziness; it belongs in an insane asylum. But this is a religious girl, forget about the secular people.”
Over the past few years, the drafting of women has been on the agenda of the stricter Orthodox rabbis as an increasing number of women graduates of Orthodox high schools have ignored the rulings of such rabbis against the draft. The IDF Manpower Directorate reported a few months ago that in 2015, 2,159 Orthodox women were drafted into the army and that their number is growing by 10 percent a year. Of the Orthodox women who are being drafted, 9 percent are going into combat positions.
In light of this, Liba, an organization of the same ideological bent as Levinstein’s, launched a campaign against drafting Orthodox women. The organization also criticized Bennett for his willingness to allow organizations that encourage women’s draft into religious high schools.
The lecture to the students from the Otzem academy, which is located in the community of Naveh in the Negev, was defined as preparation for the army. During the lecture, Levinstein addressed other matters that worry him, such as what he called diminished religious practice of soldiers during their service, the attitude of commanders to increased numbers of Orthodox soldiers and what he considers liberalism in the IDF. “The liberal concept cannot lead a person to sacrifice his life,” Levinstein said.
Levinstein encouraged the young men to marry early, if possible during their military service, which he said would ensure a home infused with religious ardor if they chose an appropriately religious wife. This, he said, was because men “leave the house at 6 A.M. and return at the earliest at 6 P.M. ... and in any case someone else is running the home.”