Israeli soldier punished for putting dairy and meat in same fridge on base

Yisrael Beytenu MK denounces IDF decision to confine soldier to base for putting cheese and cold cuts on same shelf: ‘We’ll become the army for the defense of Jewish law’

IDF reserve soldiers seen getting food in a staging area near the border with Gaza in southern Israel on July 20, 2014, during Israel's Operation Protective Edge. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
Illustrative: IDF reserve soldiers seen getting food in a staging area near the border with Gaza in southern Israel on July 20, 2014, during Israel's Operation Protective Edge. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

An Israel Defense Forces soldier was confined to an army base for a weekend as punishment for putting dairy and meat products in the same refrigerator.

According to Channel 12 news, he put cheese and cold cuts on the same shelf in a refrigerator on his base.

Under Jewish dietary laws, which the IDF adheres to, it is forbidden to mix meat and dairy together.

In a statement on the confinement of the soldier, a member of the Armored Corps, the IDF said he violated the rules of the base, even though he had been aware of the commands.

A Yisrael Beytenu lawmaker on Saturday condemned the army’s punishment of the soldier, warning it could portend further religious strictures on troops.

“Today they forbid putting milk and meat together in the same fridge. Tomorrow they’ll forbid girls from enlisting in the army. In two days we’ll become the army for the defense of Jewish law,” MK Evgeny Sova wrote on Facebook.

“We should stop this quickly,” he added.

Yisrael Beytenu member Evgeny Sova at a party event in the southern coastal city of Ashkelon on February 19, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Sova, a former Russian-language journalist, said he reached out to the army chief of staff’s office over the incident but has yet to receive a response.

The military’s latest incarceration figures were released last week, showing some 10,000 Israeli soldiers, or approximately one in every 15 servicemembers, spent time in a military prison in the past year.

Chief Military Defense Counsel Ran Cohen, whose unit represents soldiers on trial, said the practice of leaving judgment and punishment up to the discretion of commanders for low-level crimes gives far too much power to these officers, who use prison “as a default choice, rather than a last resort,” and called for a rethinking of the process.

Yisrael Beytenu, a right-wing secular party which receives much of its support from Russian-speaking immigrants, has made issues of religion and state a central plank of its campaign for Knesset elections on September 17.

The elections were called after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was unable to form a government after national elections in April, a failure he pinned on Yisrael Beytenu and its leader Avigdor Liberman as without the party’s five seats the premier was left one seat shy of a ruling majority.

While Liberman cited a litany of issues for his refusal to join Netanyahu’s proposed government, the main point of contention was his call for the passage of a Defense Ministry-drafted bill regulating exemptions to military service for Haredi seminary students.

Ultra-Orthodox parties, who have made up a key part of Netanyahu’s governing coalitions, rejected Liberman’s demand the bill be passed without changes.

Then-Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (R) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visit the IDF’s West Bank Division, near the Israeli settlement of Beit El, on January 10, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Also Saturday, Yisrael Beytenu MK Eli Avidar decried what he said was a lack of an effective opposition to Netanyahu in the Knesset.

“There is no opposition in the Knesset. Netanyahu has no opposition in Likud, my friends there don’t open their mouths. He has no opposition on the right, in the national religious parties or [opposition] Blue and White,” Avidar said at an event in the Tel Aviv suburb of Holon.

“[Blue and White] got 35 seats, entered the Knesset and climbed into [their] sleeping bags,” he added.

Yisrael Beytenu MK Eli Avidar at the Knesset on April 29, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Avidar said because of this lack of pushback, “Netanyahu can promise the ultra-Orthodox heaven and earth.”

“If the public knew what he promised the ultra-Orthodox parties, it would be in shock,” the Yisrael Beytenu lawmaker said.

Avidar did not say what these promises were, but earlier this month Channel 13 news reported Netanyahu agreed to an ultra-Orthodox demand to allow gender segregation in public spaces.

Netanyahu’s Likud party said in response to the report that the issue had not been finalized and the premier had sought to soften the demands of the ultra-Orthodox and national religious factions pertaining to matters of religion and state during the coalition talks.

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