Two soldiers, a man and a woman, were expelled last week from a Nativ course, the IDF's Jewish conversion course, after they were spotted having physical contact with each other in the course's facility in the settlement of Gush Etzion.
According to witnesses, the two embraced each other in a public space, but the IDF claims their contact was more intimate.
The two were in an advanced stage of the course, and were on the path to becoming fully fledged Jews. An element in the course, comprised by religious instructors and IDF teachers, leveled sharp criticism at the expelled soldiers for their "shameful" act.
"This is an irregular incident which has no bearing on the whole, since the rest of the students are investing time and effort to absorb Judaism's lore, out of free will and not of coercion," he said.
"The two students' act cast a shadow over the good atmosphere shared by the dozens of pupils in the course, and did not reflect the open-minded religious way kept in the seminar."
According to the Proper Integration commands, read to pupils at the start of the course, all physical contact, even of a friendly nature, between male and female soldiers is strictly banned.
Usually the commands are enforced in boot camp or in high discipline course, and even then, commanders mostly suffice with warning or punishing the soldiers, and expulsions are rare.
About a year ago, two female recruits in a southern base were punished because one brushed the other's hair.
An IDF source said in response that "if the two should choose to re-enroll in the course, their request will be reviewed by the proper authorities." The IDF Spokesperson's Unit stated: "Due to privacy concerns, we cannot detail the nature of the pupils' offence, but we'll emphasize that it's different from the one described in the article and is contrary to the Proper Integration commands."
The Nativ course is considered more pluralistic and liberal than the regular orthodox conversion, and has converted in recent years thousands of soldiers in four-month long courses.
The IDF conversion process has raised the ire of some haredi circles, who called the courses contents "heresy."
In the course, soldiers are required to follow a religious lifestyle, including prayers and wearing a kipa.
They take lessons in religion and Zionism, Jewish legacy, the connection between the Jewish nation and the state, Jewish customs, bible studies, Jewish philosophy and more.