Israeli general warns against religious extremism in the ranks

(JTA) — An Israeli general issued a warning against the danger of religious extremism in the military’s ranks.

Maj. Gen. Avi Zamir, the outgoing head of the Israel Defense Forces’ Personnel Directorate, sent a report to his colleagues on the army’s General Staff warning that accommodations for Orthodox soldiers were marginalizing female soldiers and alleging religious coercion.

Zamir’s report recommended that responsibility for building soldier’s Jewish identity be shifted from the military rabbinate to the Education Corps.

The report was sent by Zamir weeks ago, and its contents were reported Wednesday by Haaretz.

Zamir’s report has fueled debate in Israel over the military’s efforts to accommodate religious soldiers, who make up a growing proportion of its officers.

Elazar Stern, a reserve brigadier general and Zamir’s predecessor at the Personnel Department, accused him of “lighting a fire and walking away.” Stern, who is himself Orthodox, criticized Zamir for sending the report as he left his office rather than dealing with the problem during his four-year tenure.

Zamir’s 30-page letter follows an earlier study done for army chief of staff’s adviser for women that found the role of women was being restricted by the military’s  “appropriate integration” policy, which attempts to limit interaction between Orthodox and female soldiers.

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