Israeli religious soldiers to receive exemptions from activities with women
I-24 NEWS – Observant soldiers can now submit requests to be excused from activities if their beliefs risk being violated The Israel Defense Forces chief of staff on Sunday implemented new regulations following a series of complaints from religious soldiers over gender segregation.
Orthodox tradition prohibits mingling with the opposite sex, as it is believed that such interactions can distract from the study of Torah. Adherence to this rule varies depending on the community and can include prohibiting physical contact with a member of the opposite sex who is not a spouse or family member, friendly conversation, and in some cases complete isolation of the genders.
Some Ultra-Orthodox are granted exemptions from military service. Most religiously observant soldiers refuse to serve in close proximity to women, and there are special units designed to accommodate soldiers with these beliefs.
The new IDF regulations stipulate that all soldiers must attend formal ceremonies for memorial days, as well as ceremonies attended by state officials or the chief of staff, Israeli daily Haaretz reports.
However, religiously observant soldiers can now submit a request to their commander asking to be excused from events if they feel that their religious beliefs are at risk of being violated. This would include ceremonies in which women sing.
The new regulations also mean that religious soldiers will be able to request to be excused from non-mandatory training that could entail touching or “immodest clothing.” They will also be able to opt out of certain situations, including guard duty and car rides.
The rules now also say that military events will not be gender-segregated; gymnasiums and swimming pools will have two weekly two-hour periods in which they are open only to one gender; and in an emergency or in unusual circumstances, commanders are to allow shared sleeping quarters as long as there is a partition between the two genders, according to Haaretz.
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