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Saturday, February 09, 2013 

What a shame that Haredi soldiers still want gender-segregated units

Israel National News has a report with a rabbi that's got a few oddities to it, but ultimately does tell of a problem that shouldn't have to be with Haredi soldiers who won't make necessary sacrifices like being willing to work with female staff members:
Rabbi Yoel Schwartz was among those who founded the Nahal Hareidi (Netzach Yehuda) battalion, which opened the IDF to hareidi-religious soldiers by providing an environment suited to their religious lifestyle.

Now Rabbi Schwartz has issued a warning to the IDF: if army leaders do not keep their promises to hareidi soldiers, it will be impossible to enlist hareidi Jews.

Speaking to Arutz Sheva, Rabbi Schwartz condemned IDF leaders for, he said, violating their promises. “It’s worse than you can possibly imagine. They do not keep their word,” he charged.

“We had a hareidi unit in the navy, a torpedo unit that worked with the submarines. The IDF did not fulfill the conditions [promised], they brought in girls,” he related. “We closed the unit immediately.”

Hareidi communities live with separation of the genders, particularly among young single men and women. One thing hareidi rabbis have insisted on regarding hareidi units in the IDF is that the units remain for men only, and that the men be allowed to perform their duties without close interaction with female soldiers.

Religious Zionist soldiers and their rabbis complain about the same problem, exacerbated in recent years when separate units for Hesder religious Zionist soldiers were all [there seems to be an error made by the paginator that omitted the last part of that paragraph, but I assume it was supposed to be the word male].

The religious-Zionist Hesder soldiers have also faced more conflict over their religious principles in recent years, due to the abolishing of most separate units for 'Hesderniks', as they are called, and feminist groups' insistence on allowing girls to serve in any capacity - even out in the field where conditions make separation difficult. Some commanders have insisted that their soldiers listen to female soldiers sing during cultural events, creating a problem for soldiers due to the prohibition on “kol isha,” listening to a woman sing in Jewish law.

Rabbi Schwartz argued that the heads of Hesder yeshivas took the wrong approach to the issue. “I yelled at them, I said they need to stand on their feet and tell the IDF, ‘if you want us to serve, you serve us,’” he recalled.

“People who aren’t religious need to understand that they need to be flexible with us,” he continued. “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu needs to go sit with [Sephardi hareidi leader] Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and [Ashkenazi hareidi leader] Rabbi Shteinman and brainstorm together.”
I'm about to fall over laughing. Why must seculars be flexible with them but not the other way around? And besides, being in mixed company will not kill a single male. Yosef has already proven himself an unreliable rabbi, and Shteinman is probably not far behind, so I don't think conferring with them will help anything.
Most conflicts regarding hareidi lifestyles and the army involve women, the rabbi noted. He and other hareidi leaders offered several ideas that would allow hareidi soldiers to serve without interacting with female soldiers, he said, but “they rejected all of them.”

“There’s a stupid concept today of ‘segregating women’ [hadarat nashim]” he said. “Women need to push themselves into every place.”

What the army must understand is that hareidi parents’ primary fear is that their sons will leave their hareidi lifestyle if they join the army, Rabbi Schwartz said. “And what causes that is girls. They need to establish units with no girls, and with stringent kashrut – without that, there will not be anything.”
Amazing. This rabbi admits sex segregation is a terrible concept? Well if only he'd tell that to the Haredi leaderships as well. Now I'll admit that the religious officials who walked out of the concert with a female soloist didn't try to stop her from singing, and the senoir staff may have overreacted to their departure from the auditorium, but even so, their whole notion that it's wrong to listen to women singing in venues outside the synagogue is ridiculous and needs to be challenged.

And why are the Haredi parents so concerned about contact with the opposite sex but not with jihadists who threaten our entire existence? If the Haredi soldiers leave the sect, that's actually a good thing. It would show that they're questioning whether it helps them personally and whether the lifestyle is fair to the opposite sex. Leaving a Haredi lifestyle should be the least worrisome thing for anyone. Speaking of which, aren't Haredis aware that biblical Miriam sang for joy when the Jews escaped from Egypt?

And the rabbi's right that women need to push to find their way into a lot of jobs where they could have a chance of excelling for many positive purposes. They also need to challenge the gender segregation concept that's only serving to ruin many Haredi communities.

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