Dozens of IDF soldiers from the Engineering Corps, including religious ones, were taken on Tuesday to places which violate their religious principles, in contravention to standing orders from the general staff.
The soldiers were taken on an “educational tour” in the Galil, which included a visit to a church and a Druze religious figure.
The Chief of Staff’s directive forbids entering a church except when there is an operational requirement. “A commander will not force a soldier to enter a church unless the matter is required for the sake of or in the course of operational duty,” says the directive.
The Tzav 1 association, which deals with complaints on such matters, vehemently protested the program and the recent moves within the military to sideline the IDF rabbinate.
In response, an IDF spokesman said that the report was not accurate, and that “soldiers are not forced to enter churches if it violates their religious beliefs, and that the officers informed the soldiers of this.” The spokesman defended it as part of the military’s cultural program, which “exposes soldiers to the human mosaic of society…”
A leaflet distributed on the tour by the Education Corps stated further that the program’s goal is to “strengthen the sense of belonging and commitment of the soldier to Israeli society, the state of Israel and the IDF. Soldiers will investigate their value systems and how they manifest themselves in daily life throughout their walking tour in the North and exposure to different cultures.”