The IDF directive requiring religious soldiers to shave off their beards — scheduled to take effect on Tuesday — has been postponed for several months, and it appears doubtful that it will ever be implemented.
The IDF understands that it went out on a limb on the issue, and has opted for a dilatory approach, rather than immediate cancellation of the order.
The decision to require religious soldiers to remove their beards caused a huge public furor.
On Monday, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Harav Dovid Lau is slated to meet with the head of the IDF Manpower division, Hagai Topolanski, to discuss the issue, as well as the recent decision to outsource the responsibility for Jewish education in the military, taking it away from the IDF rabbinate.
The Chief Rabbi told Topolanski of the gravity with he views the shaving issue. Topolanski explained the military’s attitude in the matter, but said that in the meantime implementation will be put off in order for the IDF to re-examine the issue.
In recent months, numerous meetings were held between the heads of the Hesder movement and senior IDF officials to find a way for religious soldiers to continue to serve while maintaining their traditions.
At the end of the contacts, the Hesder council stated: “A soldier who has decided for religious-spiritual reasons to grow a beard and has signed a statement to that effect, should exhaust all the required administrative procedures, including a formal protest if necessary. And then, he should not shave off his beard while any of the procedures remain before him.”
Among those who attacked the directive was Brigadier General (Res.) Rabbi Yisrael Weiss, former Chief Rabbi of the IDF, who branded the shaving order a scandal, and said that if the military should in the end insist on it, then all of the religious officers and soldiers should refuse to comply, even if it means going to jail, and that the Jewish people will accompany them wearing sackcloth.
“Even if it’s true that some non-religious soldiers took advantage of the permission given to their religious comrades to also grow beards and so to be exempt from the morning chore of shaving, one doesn’t just get up one morning and automatically forbid it for tens of thousands of religious soldiers, and transfer the authority over it from the IDF Rabbis to the adjutants, who don’t understand the matter,” said Rabbi Weiss.
“We are talking about a Jewish army, not some other. I have no doubt that it’s possible to have a Jewish military with soldiers who are meticulous in their Jewishness.”