Military chief slams settler rabbi over women’s singing


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s military chief of staff, Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, slammed a settler rabbi’s claim that religious soldiers would rather face a firing squad than attend a ceremony in which women sing.

Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, head of the Elon Moreh hesder yeshiva, said in a Nov. 18 interview on the haredi Orthodox Radio Kol Chai that soldiers must "give their life for this issue." He was responding to the expected recommendation by a Gantz-appointed committee that would require religious soldiers to attend official ceremonies in which women performed.

Levanon also said that should such a recommendation be made, he would order his students to stop entering the Israel Defense Forces, saying it would no longer be a Jewish army.

"Never mind forcing soldiers to attack against their will, but this is about listening to a female singer! Is this what the army is about? Is this what makes a person a better soldier?" the rabbi said. "This whole issue is clearly an attempt to harass religious soldiers."  

Gantz said Sunday that "In the IDF one serves a national service. Everyone together, religious and secular, women and men. Those who contribute are important, not those who don’t."

The religious Jewish law, or halachah, of kol isha prohibits men from listening to a woman sing. Last month several religious army cadets left an official ceremony because women were singing. Some returned upon orders from their commander, but two did not and were punished.  

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