Over the past few days, controversy has stirred up by a prominent settler rabbi, who called on soldiers to refuse military service if they are forced to serve in mixed military units, which comprise both men and women. There were people who immediately supported that rabbi. However, he aroused the full ire of other settler rabbis as well as angry reactions by politicians. A prominent researcher in army affairs warned against the ongoing religionisation of the Israeli army since the beginning of the 2000s. The researcher stressed that this process, which involves religious and political extremism, reflects on the soldiers’ performance against Palestinians in the field.
The issue emerged when the army announced the promotion of a female officer in the aviation corps to the rank of a colonel and squadron commander. Israeli army reports indicated a sharp rise in the number of religious young women, whom the law immediately discharges from compulsory military service. Reports also highlighted an increasing number of female soldiers, who choose to serve in operational and combat units. It seems that this spawned outrage among ultraorthodox rabbis.
According to periodic military reports, compared to 72 percent of young men, approximately 62 percent of young women were conscripted. This is attributed to the immediate discharge of religious young women of all religious sects. A phenomenon shows that some secular young women pretend to be religious in order to avoid military service. However, this phenomenon has been contained over the past few years. Those whose religiosity is called into question are subject to investigation.
According to a recent report, 25 percent of religious young women from the Zionist religious wing decide to enlist in compulsory military service. For these, the duration of military service is 24 months. Twelve percent of religious women, who decide to enlist, join the colleges of officers. Another report indicates that the army has been preparing for a potential rise in the number of religious female conscripts to 50 percent. As this report puts it, religious female conscripts comprised 34 percent of the last summer’s regiment.