Outcry after IDF bows to rabbinical objections and deletes video celebrating International Women's Day

Some Orthodox rabbis say their students cannot serve alongside women


A video to promote the Israeli Air Force has become the latest source of conflict between religion and military in the country.

The footage, released to mark International Women’s Day last week, shows pictures of female soldiers and officers serving in a wide array of roles from pilots to firefighters, as an intentionally ironic narrator reads a series of chauvinist clichés.

“Women can’t be fighters, women aren’t built for it, they are physically incapable,” are among the statements made.

The video quickly went viral in Israel after it was posted on the air force’s Facebook page.

But the issue of women in combat roles has recently been criticised by national religious rabbis who complain that their students cannot serve alongside women and the video was removed, shortly after a religious website requested comment from the IDF.

A spokesman explained it had been produced without authorisation, even though reports elsewhere in the Israeli media suggested it had been approved by officials in the military's press relations office.

Sources in the air force said they had no intention of angering religious people and sought only to celebrate the progress of women in the military in recent years.

The IDF has been steadily increasing the number of roles open to women.

Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot, the chief of staff, said at an International Women’s Day event last week that “the question should be who is the right person for the job, without connection to gender.

“I can’t imagine an army without women, it makes us stronger and smarter.”

But the Facebook video incident demonstrated the IDF was struggling to balance a greater role for women with reduced friction with rabbis.

A group of serving and former women soldiers produced their own video to protest the air force’s about-turn.

In their footage, the soldiers are seen each reading a quote from a rabbi who opposes female combat soldiers, demanding in turn that the rabbis apologise or reject their state-funded salaries.

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