Religious Zionist leader: Our soldiers will not serve in mixed combat units

If the High Court of Justice rules in favor of allowing women into top combat units, Rabbi Haim Druckman says, religious men will drop out, dealing a heavy blow to the army.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A leader of the religious Zionist community in Israel called Tuesday for the Supreme Court not to rule in favor of integrating women into top combat units, saying that religious soldiers from ‘hesder’ yeshivas, who combine Torah study with army duty, will not be able to serve in them.

“I heard with concern about various trends that may harm the Jewish character of the IDF,” said Rabbi Haim Druckman regarding a two-year-old petition currently being heard by the nation’s highest court. It was brought by women who want the opportunity to serve in the most elite units of the army.

In a Youtube video that has gone viral in the religious community, he said, “It is inconceivable to oblige soldiers to act contrary to a religious way of life according to Halacha [Jewish law].”

“If God forbid there are mixed combat units, we will not be able to educate our students to serve in them,” he continued in an open warning to the IDF. “Such a thing would prevent religious soldiers from preserving their [religious] lifestyle and harm the security of the state.”

According to a 2016 paper by the Jewish People Policy Institute, well over a third of the junior officers in IDF special forces units are religious Zionists. They are divided between those who studied in one-to-two year Orthodox preparatory programs for the army called mechinot and those who commit to a five-year program in Hesder academies where the students break up their religious studies with 18 months of army service.

Druckman heads such an academy and is the chairman of the religious Zionist Bnei Akiva high school system.

The IDF is quite reliant on this highly motivated population, a large portion of which obeys its rabbis’ instructions regarding religious matters in all aspects of their lives, including their army service.

This is not the first time that rabbis in the sector have cited religious law to come out against women serving in combat roles, and against men serving with women in general. In their eyes, gender equality, which the petitioners are fighting for, does not trump the prime Jewish value of modesty for both men and women.

“It is forbidden to force the soldiers to choose between contributing to the country’s security, or maintaining Jewish law,” Druckman stated.

With the consent of the plaintiffs, the state and the IDF asked the court Tuesday for a one-week extension before responding to the petition.