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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Female Border Police member barred from eating in Haredi base

A female member of Israel's Border Police was blocked from entering the dining room at a base of the Haredi unit of the Nahal infantry brigade, Channel 2 News reported on Monday. The IDF Spokesman’s Office responded that the event was being investigated.

According to the report, a Border Police unit on an operational mission came to the base at Mevo Dotan to eat supper. The base is routinely manned by soldiers of the Nahal Haredi batallion. When the female member of the unit was denied entry, her male comrades decided to remain outside with her and miss dinner.

"The Netzah Yehuda Battalion keeps the Sabbath strictly, the food served is kosher lemehadrin and service in the battalion is completely separate [from women]," according to the Israel Defense Force’s Human Resources website. No women serve in the battalion itself.

It was not the first time that the prohibition on women entering the battalion’s premises has caused controversy. In a previous case, a female officer tasked with checking the readiness of the kitchen to accommodate new recruits was refused entry by one of the base’s male officers. Following that event, the Chief of Staff's advisor for women's affairs, Brig. Gen. Rachel Tevet-Weisel, asked the battalion commander to clarify his position. She said that he had instructed all the battalion's officers that "the base is not closed to women."

MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid), chairwoman of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women said "this unfortunate incident is further proof of how much the army must ensure that the drafting of ultra-Orthodox soldiers will not have a negative impact on female soldiers. Barring a female [in military service]  from a base is completely unacceptable, and the army must make that abundantly clear."

Two months ago, Tevet-Weisel told the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women that "they don't have a fitness training NCO, but female computer systems officers can enter the base."

A senior IDF officer reiterated the army's position recently, saying that she "does not accept a base closed to women, with battles over the issue. For all I care, they can evacuate the base before a woman comes to fix something. She's not an organic part of the unit, after all."

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