Despite recent statements by the leader of his party condemning the ruling, Education Minister Shai Piron (Yesh Atid) said he backs the chief rabbis’ injunction against observant women enlisting in the IDF.
Piron made his position clear came two days after Finance Minister and Yesh Atid chief Yair Lapid slammed the Chief Rabbinate and called for the immediate termination of Rabbis David Lau and Yitzchak Yosef over their official ruling that under Jewish law, women should not serve in the military.
Piron had originally voiced his opinion on the issue in a post on the internet forum Maale in 2003.
“I don’t know of any rabbis that would allow [observant women] to serve in the army,” Piron responded then to a question on the permissibility of IDF service. “The halachic authorities saw the reality from a joint education and spiritual perspective, this view led them to their halachic conclusion… The problem with IDF service is the general atmosphere that does not allow for a life without [religious] pitfalls.”
Over 10 years later, the education minister told Maariv Sunday that he stands by those statements.
Officials from Piron’s office stressed, however, that religious women should do two years of national civil service in lieu of military service. Such service is technically voluntary for girls who receive exemptions from the IDF based on their religious affiliation.
“The Education Minister believes that there is no room for evading [service] also among religious girls, and in light of the position of the halachic authorities, they must fulfill their obligation to the state with two years on the accepted national service track,” the officials told the Srugim website Sunday.
In a Facebook post in response to the rabbinate decision on Friday, Lapid called for the immediate dismissal of Chief Rabbis Lau and Yosef. “We are talking about civil servants who receive a very handsome salary from the State of Israel, sit in their comfortable offices with their vehicles nearby, and announce their disapproval of girls serving in the mud and the cold,” he wrote.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni also took to her Facebook page on Friday to decry the ruling, and said it “harms the female citizens of Israel, depriving them of acting of their own free will and contributing to their country.”
MK Yoni Chetboun, of the right-wing Jewish Home party, sent a letter to Lapid on Sunday accusing him of trying to “cut off” religion from state and called on leaders “not to play into the hands of those seeking to obscure the Jewish identity of Israel.”
The ruling issued Thursday by Lau and Yosef noted that the Rabbinate was merely continuing “the tradition of previous chief rabbis,” and does not constitute a departure from the rabbinate’s rulings on the subject of female conscription to date.