Israel – The IDF expects a sharp increase in the number of religious girls who opt for full army service in the coming year. During the draft period between April 2010 and April 2011, some 1,200 18-year-old young women who classified themselves as observant entered the ranks of the IDF. Army officials expect that number to grow by about 25% this year, with some 1,500 girls signing up for service by the time the current draft period ends in April 2012.
For the third year in a row, the IDF held a conference Wednesday designed to answer questions by potential religious female draftees about army service. Officials of the IDF education unit, which sponsors the event, were said to be shocked at the large number of girls; over 1,000 attended, the largest number of attendees in the three years the event has taken place. It is hifhly possible that this reflects the growing population of religious girls and is not larger percentage-wise.
Currently there are some 2,000 religious female soldiers, serving in a variety of capacities – many of them in administrative and educational capacities. At least one is in line to be promoted to the rank of brigadier-general. In response to the demand, the IDF has opened up a number of new opportunities for religious female soldiers that would be appropriate for them – ie; allowing them to avoid intensive battlefield conditions with male soldiers, and allowing them to dress appropriately, with skirts, etc. The opportunities were decided upon after IDF soldiers conferred with the Chief IDF Rabbinate and the Alumah organization, which aids female religious soldiers.
The girls who enter into active IDF service most often do so against the advice of family and community. All Orthodox rabbis – from both the hareidi and the national religious world – ban IDF service for girls, except for the situationwhere Israel would be in such danger that everyone had to enlist.
All of Israel’s Chief Rabbis, Sephardic and Ashkenazi, have from the beginning of the state banned such service as well – and would have liked to see all Jewish Israeli girls exempt from the army – instead suggesting that girls volunteer for the National Service (sherut le’umi) program, which the Knesset has adopted as a full substitute for religious girls who wish to serve the country and will not join the army.