The Israeli government’s insistence on drafting women into the army — one of the only countries in the world to do so — was never based on military need. Rather, it has always been a matter of social engineering, of using the IDF as a tool to mold the young generation with the ideals and viewpoints that the state’s founders — and their successors — desired.
More than six decades have passed since Gedolei Yisrael issued their famous ruling that drafting women into the Israeli army is “yehareg v’al yaavor.”
Since that epic battle, it has been well established that girls who signed a clear declaration that they were religious received exemptions from the army. Since secular individuals, for the most part, would not identify themselves as dati, there was little if any ambiguity in the matter.
In recent years, an ever-growing number of young women have begun taking upon themselves various levels of Torah observance, and many see military service as a direct contradiction to their beliefs and their views about a woman’s role in life.
This is what led to the vote on Tuesday, in the Joint Committee of the Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Constitution and Justice committees, to pass new regulations that make it more difficult for those applying for exemptions on religious grounds to receive them.
This vote is extremely troubling for a number of reasons.
We firmly oppose the very notion of drafting women into the army, a concept that has long been rejected by the overwhelming majority of civilized countries. No girl, regardless of her religious beliefs, should have to be exposed to such an environment.
At the very least, it is imperative that the current exemption be interpreted as broadly as possible.
Even though there are always individuals, in all circumstances, who will seek to unfairly take advantage of such types of exemptions, that should never be a reason for someone who is legitimately entitled to an exemption to be denied one, or even to have to face roadblocks in obtaining one.
It is inconceivable that those who openly desecrate all that is holy should pass judgment on who is religious and who isn’t. Those who have no inkling of the loftiness of a mitzvah can’t possibly decide whether a baalas teshuvah is far enough along on her journey to Yiddishkeit to be exempt from serving in the Israeli army.
All possible efforts must be made to ensure that every girl who expresses a desire to draw closer to a life of Torah be able to obtain an exemption without difficulty. It is the obligation of all of Torah Jewry to protect the rights of those who wish to lead a life of mitzvah obsvervance, and to see that they be able to do so freely.