Another example of how religion poisons everything

The absurd fuss over contraception in the US is a classic example of religions abusing the language of ‘freedom of religion’ to advance their anti-women agenda. It turns out that Israel is also experiencing a similar phenomenon. Orthodox soldiers are apparently objecting to having to hear women sing at military functions.

The army’s insistence on men hearing women sing is such a serious attack on religious freedom, according to one prominent far-right rabbi, that “we’re close to a situation in which we will have to tell soldiers, ‘You have to leave such events even if a firing squad is set up outside, which will fire on and kill you.'”

Some see a more sinister agenda at work than discrimination against women. There are fears that radical conservative clergy are deliberately setting the stage to undermine military discipline so that in the event that soldiers are ordered to do things that are opposed by the clergy, such as dismantling settlements in the occupied territories, the soldiers will obey the clergy rather than their military superiors. They are being aided in this effort by the increasing numbers of Orthodox soldiers and officers in the Israeli military.

The religious nationalist right, on the other hand, has become an ever-growing source of combat soldiers and officers. According to a study published in an army journal, with the author listed only by his first initial for secrecy’s sake, the proportion of Orthodox men among graduates of the officers’ training course for the infantry rose from 2.5 percent in 1990 to over 26 percent in 2008. (Just over one-eighth of all Israeli soldiers were Orthodox.) The change has been fed by two kinds of religious institutions with military ties: In hesder (“arrangement”) yeshivot, men alternate between periods of religious study and stretches of active duty in their own separate platoons. In pre-army academies, men undergo a year of physical training and religious instruction before entering the army. In both cases, the instructors are likely to be rabbis for whom right-wing politics come straight from God.

The consequences of this shift began showing as Israel prepared for its 2005 withdrawal from Gaza. Sixty leading rabbis of the religious right—including the deans of several hesder yeshivot—issued a proclamation telling soldiers, “It is forbidden for any Jew to participate or assist in dismantling settlements.” Other rabbis told their students to avoid evacuation duty without openly disobeying orders. To prevent an epidemic of insubordination, the army avoided assigning infantry units with large numbers of Orthodox soldiers to evacuate settlers. Nonetheless, the army reported that over sixty soldiers were court-martialed. The real number may be higher.

This is what happens when you give religions special privileges. People think that you can arrive at some kind of reasonable accommodation with them but they are wrong. Religions are insatiable in trying to impose their narrow, bigoted agendas on everyone.


  1. Steve says

    Training and arming a bunch of primitive, religious fanatics? Nothing can go wrong!

  2. grumpyoldfart says

    I doubt any soldier is going to walk in front of a firing squad just because some woman is singing … but they will shut her up one way or another.

  3. Synfandel says

    Nothing at all.

    “When Israel had finished slaughtering all the inhabitants of Ai in the open wilderness where they pursued them, and when all of them to the very last had fallen by the edge of the sword, all Israel returned to Ai, and attacked it with the edge of the sword. The total of those who fell that day, both men and women, was twelve thousand—all the people of Ai. For Joshua did not draw back his hand, with which he stretched out the sword, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai.”
    Joshua 8:24-26

    “When we headed up the road to Bashan, King Og of Bashan came out against us, he and all his people, for battle at Edrei. The Lord said to me, ‘Do not fear him, for I have handed him over to you, along with his people and his land. Do to him as you did to King Sihon of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon.’ So the Lord our God also handed over to us King Og of Bashan and all his people. We struck him down until not a single survivor was left.”
    Deuteronomy 3:1

    “The Lord said to me [Moses], ‘See, I have begun to give Sihon and his land over to you. Begin now to take possession of his land.’ So when Sihon came out against us, he and all his people for battle at Jahaz, the Lord our God gave him over to us; and we struck him down, along with his offspring and all his people. At that time we captured all his towns, and in each town we utterly destroyed men, women, and children. We left not a single survivor.”
    Deuteronomy 2:31-34

  4. Barry Johnstone. says

    This is why we -- as non-theists, MUST stick our heads above the parapets!

  5. Emily says

    I love the use of “non-theist” instead of “atheist.” I wish there was a term that stood on its own and meant the same as non-theist but did not require theism as the “thing” which is opposed. Secularist, maybe? Humanist? Anyway, the argument that I shouldn’t have to pay for anything that goes against my conscience or my religion is abhorrent. Unless, of course, the government is going to let me opt out of paying the military budget.


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