The head of a pre-army religious academy in southern Israel accused the IDF of seeking “to destroy” Israeli families, in a speech on Sunday warning religious women not to “dare” enlist.
In the speech, which Hadashot TV news aired Monday, Rabbi Tzvi Kostiner claimed co-ed military service has caused women to leave the army due to emotional problems, injuries and harassment.
“All this mixing is immodest. Today the entire army is one giant mixture,” he told a gathering in Jerusalem for female religious teenagers titled “Femininity: A matter of essence.”
Kostiner said men and women serving together has led to “insanity” in the army, with women taking on roles traditionally reserved for men.
“As if it’s a new craze, to enlist, to be a man, to be an idealist,” said the rabbi, who heads Mitzpe Ramon’s Midbara K’Eden Yeshiva. “Don’t you dare enlist,” he warned and implored those in the attendance “to go everywhere and tell girls not to enlist.”
The issue of female enlistment, especially into combat units, has become a sensitive one among Orthodox nationalist religious leaders in recent years, and has pitted Israel’s traditionally liberal military leadership against the spiritual leaders of a large number of religiously observant soldiers and officers.
Kostiner’s remarks came just a week after Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman barred Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef from attending army events for backing a right-wing rabbi who had called for ousting IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, over the integration of female soldiers in combat units.
That rabbi, Shmuel Eliyahu, was also banned from IDF events, as was Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, who said it was forbidden to join mixed-gender units, which make up almost all non-combat units in the IDF, as well as several combat units.