Report: Female soldiers barred from singing at IDF base due to religious troops

IDF says it is investigating report, which comes amid spate of instances where women have been discriminated against to accommodate sensitivities of religious Jewish men

Illustrative: Female soldiers in the army's infantry instructors course take a water break during an exercise on November 19, 2007. (Israel Defense Forces)
Illustrative: Female soldiers in the army's infantry instructors course take a water break during an exercise on November 19, 2007. (Israel Defense Forces)

Female cadets at an Israel Defense Force base were told to stop singing and playing music while doing kitchen duty because of the sensitivities of religious soldiers, Channel 12 news reported Thursday.

The incident occurred at the military’s non-combat basic training Base 80 in the center of the country. According to the report, the women were playing music and singing along while working in the kitchen, when they were told to turn it off and stop singing because there were religious soldiers present.

The report did not say who gave the order.

Some Orthodox Jewish men consider it immodest to hear women singing.

The IDF said in response that it was investigating the report, which comes amid a series of incidents in recent weeks that have made national headlines in which women and girls have been told to sit in the back of the bus, told to cover up, or refused boarding due to the sensitivities of religious male passengers.

“The IDF honors and respects all those who serve, regardless of religion, race, gender or sexual preference, while maintaining a respectful space for all soldiers and safeguarding their rights,” the military said, adding that if needed, “procedures will be refined accordingly.”

The focus on religious-based discrimination against women comes as societal tensions between right and left and between religious and secular rise over the government’s efforts to curtail some the judiciary’s powers.

Prime Minister Benjamin was forced to speak up on the issue in recent weeks.

In a terse statement, Netanyahu called for anyone who discriminates against passengers on public transportation to be punished.

Teenage girls on a bus from Ashdod to Safed who say they were asked by the driver to go to the back of the bus, cover up their summer outfits and put on blankets so as not to offend Haredi passengers on August 13, 2023. (Used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)

“The State of Israel is a free country, in which nobody will set limits on who can use public transportation, and in which nobody will dictate where he or she will sit,” he said. “Those who do this are breaking the law and should be punished.”

His condemnation came a day after a bus driver ordered a group of teenage girls to sit in the back and cover themselves up due to their supposedly immodest dress.

In another incident, a bus driver refused to respond to an 88-year-old Holocaust survivor, saying he doesn’t speak to women.

Two similar instances occurred the week before. A bus driver in Ashdod told a woman that she could not board a bus because it was meant only for ultra-Orthodox men, and in Tel Aviv a driver berated a woman for wearing a tank top.

Some so-called mehadrin (strictly kosher) buses, which enforced gender separation to accommodate ultra-Orthodox passengers by having men sit in the front and women in the back, operated in Israel until the High Court of Justice ruled in 2011 that the practice was illegal.

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