Ritual bath for women living on-base
After women living in Ovda base complain of need to travel 60 kilometers for ritual bath, army builds first mikveh in its history thanks to $100,000 donation
The Israel Defense Forces will inaugurate the first military mikveh in history on Thursday, at the southern Air Force base in Ovda.
The ceremony will be attended by the donor who transferred some $100,000 for the ritual bath's construction, as well as senior Military Rabbinate and base officers.
According to Military Rabbinate sources, the project was launched after women living on-base complained about having to travel 60 kilometers (37 miles) to Eilat every time they wish to immerse in a mikveh.
According to the officials, religious women living in other bases visit ritual baths in nearby cities and communities, but the Ovda base is isolated and far from any other community with a mikveh.
Sources in the army say the new mikveh has nothing to do with religion and army issues which have sparked several rows over the past few months, claiming that the plan was initiated over a decade ago, during the term of the former military chief rabbi, Brigadier-General (Res.) Avichai Ronsky.
Strictly kosher kitchens
Last week, the Military Rabbinate decided that most IDF kitchens would become "mehadrin" (strictly kosher) in the next few years.
Most products offered in IDF kitchens are already strictly kosher – excluding beef, which is just "kosher".
According to the Rabbinate's decision, which was published in the IDF's Bamahane newspaper, military kashrut supervisors will take the same course the Chief Rabbinate's supervisors undergo, which will allow them to define kitchens as "strictly kosher" as long as they are supervised on a daily basis and only include strictly kosher products.
Another issue which made headlines in recent months was the performance of women in the army, following the dismissal of religious cadets from an officers' course after they walked out of a military ceremony as a female soldier began singing.
As first reported by Yedioth Ahronoth, religious soldiers will likely be forced to attend official ceremonies even if they include women performers, but their presence in unofficial unit events will be subject to their commander's discretion.
Major-General Orna Barbivai, head of the IDF Personnel Directorate, addressed the issue in the Knesset last week, saying that "women should sing on any stage and in any every ceremony."
She stressed that "the commander is the one who determines his unit's reality and uses discretion in cases of specific sensitivity."
We are talking about a worldview of a service which will suit both sexes," she said. "We have increased the enlistment of haredim out of the same perception."
Generals against radicalization
A large group of retired generals sent a letter to the IDF chief of staff recently, expressing their concern over the religious radicalization in the army in general, and the attempt to put an end to women's performances in particular.
Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz responded in his own letter: "I share your belief in the importance of the IDF being the people's army and the importance of integrating men and women into the same units.
"However, I must stress that there is no exclusion of women in the IDF in general, and no prohibition on the singing of women. As always, IDF commanders have the supreme authority when it comes to their subordinates' conduct.
"All the people in charge of this issue in the IDF, including myself, are working to advance the issue and deal with its complications through intensive work within the military ranks rather than in newspaper headlines. We will continue to do so for the sake of the soldiers serving in the IDF."