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Thursday, December 22, 2011 

Telling a religious soldier it's better to die in battle than hear women sing is offensive to teach

I've always wanted to write about a subject like this, because it is something important, but figuring out how is the difficult part. But now, I'd like to address the unfortunate discrimination that's admittedly been going on in some Hasidic mindsets as to a woman's status in Israeli society. In this case, it's of a rabbi who told his disciples that it's better to die in battle than hear a woman sing. According to this article:
Israel Defense Forces soldiers should choose death before they remain at army events which include women's singing, a top settler religious leader said in an interview on Thursday.

The comment made by Elyakim Levanon, the rabbi of the West Bank settlement of Elon Moreh, came after earlier this week, 19 reserve major generals sent a letter to Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, imploring them not to allow harm to come to women's service in the army as a result of religious soldiers' demands.

[...]in a radio interview on Thursday, Rabbi Levanon criticized a possible ruling that would forbid religious soldiers from leaving events over women's singing, saying that IDF soldier should choose death before complying with such an order.

"[The IDF] is bringing close the day in which rabbis will have to say to soldiers 'you have to leave those events even if there's a firing squad outside, and you'll be shot to death," Levanin said.
If this is accurate enough, I must say that I'm really aghast that he would make such a statement. On the one hand, I'll say in fairness that if they don't want to hang around, they don't have to, provided they don't try to punch the singer in the nose. On the other hand, Levanon's suggesting to anyone that it's better to die than hear a woman singing is offensive and abominable. Are the (presumably Hasidic) religious soldiers going to be smashed into the dust by the Lord's hand if they commit the "crime" of hearing women sing, or are they going to end up in hell? Frankly, I don't think so, and making that statement at the expense of the female sex is simply unacceptable.

As told in this interview with veteran rabbi David Hartman (via Religion and State in Israel):
From a halachic perspective, is there a problem with women standing up to sing?

“No. The Gemara talks only a loss of concentration while reciting the Shema. If women are singing when you are in the middle of reciting the Shema, it will hinder your intent. That’s it. No more. A rabbi in Israel saying that it’s better to die than to hear a woman singing is crazy.” (Referring to Elyakim Levanon, the rabbi of Elon Moreh, who declared that he would prefer to stand in front of a firing squad than hear a woman sing).
As far as I know, it's only in religious prayer where women serving in song isn't thought to belong. Non-religious entertainment is completely irrelevant.

Torah and religious scholars are going to have to start teaching their disciples that it's not sinful at all to listen to women singing. Some of this, I wonder, might've come vaguely from Islamic influence. What if indeed it did? Then it's something that's going to have to be reversed.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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