IDF head bashes decision to ban female speaker from ceremony

IDF chief Aviv Kochavi says an incident last week in which a female officer was prohibited from speaking at a Western Wall military ceremony “harmed the army’s values and command structure.”

“Women serve in the IDF, are essential to the IDF and their service is needed in the IDF. They command, they train, they investigate, they fight and they carry out various missions, and they are treated exactly like men who serve in the IDF,” Kochavi writes in a missive.

IDF chief Aviv Kochavi speaks at a ceremony marking Memorial Day at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, on April 13, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The incident occurred on Thursday during a swearing-in ceremony for new recruits, a common occurrence there. According to media reports, the woman was told not to speak at the last moment, due to a request by the Western Wall Foundation, a government body responsible for managing the holy site.

Kochavi says the decision disrespected the officer, and that only professional considerations can justify gender discrimination in the heavily integrated army.

He also bemoans the influence of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation in determining who could speak at the ceremony.

Israeli soldiers attend a swearing-in ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, June 23, 2016. (Zack Wajsgras/Flash90)

“Only IDF officers can set the values and norms of a company, only they set what the company’s standards are. IDF officers cannot allow themselves to be influenced by pressure groups or actors outside the chain of command,” he writes.

In its response to an outcry of the incident, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation said military ceremonies at the site are held in accordance with IDF guidelines and chalked up the incident to a “local misunderstanding.”

The foundation runs the site according to ultra-Orthodox traditions; some ultra-Orthodox consider it immodest for women to speak or sing in public.

Kochavi notes that officers face tough dilemmas, but says they must be guided by the need to uphold the army’s values, including respect and equality.

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