IDF Chief: Religious Soldiers Not Excused From Official Events Where Women Sing

Chief of Staff Benny Gantz also said religious soldiers will not be forced to attend optional army events featuring female singers.

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said on Tuesday that the Israeli army will not excuse religious soldiers from official army events that feature female soldiers singing.

Speaking to Army Radio, Gantz commented on the recent phenomenon of the "exclusion of women" in Israel, and said that the IDF in no way restricts women's singing at ceremonies.

gantz rabbis - IDF Press Office - September 11 2011
IDF Press Office

“Women will be able to sing in services,” Gantz said, stressing that it is important for the IDF to “respect people.”

After several religious cadets have walked out of IDF ceremonies where female soldiers were singing, the IDF chief emphasized that religious soldiers are not excused from such events, if they are official ceremonies.

However, Gantz explained that these soldiers could choose not to attend non-formal events.

"The Joint Service Command ruled that in non-formal events, people must be respected, but we cannot force soldiers to participate."

Gantz emphasized that there is no alternative to the military command, and that the IDF will sort out the issue of religious soldiers who refuse to hear women's singing.

The Chief of Staff added that women can serve anywhere in the IDF. They can “contribute operationally, they can deal with situations, they can sing, the Hebrew singer is part of our culture,” he said.

Gantz also discussed the incident earlier this month, where the Chief of Staff and Defense Minister Ehud Barak joked about the issue of women serving in the army during a Golani Brigade drill, and their comments were caught by cameras in the vicinity. 

"I think that people understand the difference between a joke and a serious issue," Gantz said,

The debate over religious soldiers’ refusal to attend events featuring female soldiers singing has been raging since September, when four religious soldiers were ousted from officer candidate school over the issue.

Read this article in Hebrew