Warning over religious coercion in IDF sparks anger

A petition signed by 19 former generals cautioning against religious coercion in the IDF is causing uproar in the army.

The petition follows series of flashpoints involving religious soldiers. Recently, strictly-Orthodox troops refused to take part in events in which female soldiers were singing and, in another episode, certain units objected to having female commanders.

The petition cites "the disrespect shown to female soldiers in the name of religion". While the signatories stressed that they "appreciate the religious IDF soldiers and their rights, they have to be recognised without forcing a religious lifestyle on the rest of those serving".

The document highlights the continuing tension within the IDF caused by the effort to open up new army roles to women and, at the same time, encourage more religious soldiers to serve.

Rabbis and religious politicians responded angrily to the petition. Kadima MK Othniell Schneller, a colonel in the IDF reserves, said: "The letter damages the inner strength of the IDF and the national security." Rabbi Avichai Rontzky, a former IDF chief rabbi, said that the generals who signed the petition "were in the army a long while ago and are not aware of the current climate in the IDF".

    Last updated: 12:47pm, November 17 2011