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Rabbi Tzvi Kostiner and IDF mixed-sex battalion soldiers

Rabbi Zvi Kostiner, dean of the yeshiva in Mitzpe Ramon, told a Noam party campaign meeting that he was behind the pressure exerted on the IDF to cancel the women’s armor corps course, according to the Channel 13 investigative program Hamakor on Monday (H/T Kipa).

Noam (Hebrew: Pleasantness) is an Orthodox Jewish religious, right-wing political party established in July 2019 by a Haredi faction in the Religious Zionist community, inspired by Rabbi Zvi Thau and his Har Hamor Yeshiva. The party’s goal is to advance policies against LGBT-inspired politics and what it calls “the destruction of the family.”

Hamakor hosts Raviv Drucker (R) and Baruch Kra / Screenshot
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Several months ago, Channel 13’s Hamakor revealed that a number of rabbis were behind the IDF’s decision to cancel the women’s tank unit course. On Monday night this week, the same program aired a video shot secretly during the Noam party election meeting in which Rabbi Kostiner brags that his students exerted great pressure on the commanders throughout the course in question, in order to have the women’s pilot course be canceled.

The forum of Rabbis Serving in IDF Reserve Units issued a response statement following the Hamakor tape, saying: “This is a fake and false investigation. The separation of men’s and women’s bathrooms and sleeping accommodations in training areas are part of the explicit General Staff orders in accordance with the Joint Service Ordinance (sections 1b and 32), signed by both the Chief of Staff Advisory for Gender Affairs and the ACA Chief of Staff Gen. Moti Almoz. The complaints of religious soldiers only encouraged the commanders to implement the order.”

According to the reservist rabbis, “The only thing the investigation revealed was the failures in the field and the lack of enforcement of the Joint Service Ordinance. As you may recall, the first female tank crew pilot failed as early as 2015 due to damage to the women’s health and to the military missions. The suggestions that the second experiment failed because of the rabbis are imagined by leftist organizations, which prefer equality over victory.”

We cited the reaction from religious IDF soldiers to the video first because The Jewish Press Online is a religious, rightwing publication, and we want the reader the get the context of this recording first.

“The Armor corps also wanted to bring in women,” Rabbi Kostiner related. “Everything was, of course, kept secret, since they want to conquer everything.”

He added, “What’s the point? Once it’s in the military, it spreads to civilian life, too. This means the destruction of the family in Israel, and the destruction of the women in Israel.”

Rabbi Kostiner added: “They made a movie about us (at Hamakor), showing how the project failed. I will tell the story here because I was on the other side…”

Rabbi Kostiner explained the unit’s religious soldiers’ strategy: “Right away, my guys start complaining, they make trouble. Comment on every single thing. Every Friday, 10 complaints were made to the company commander. They arrive at the training field, and they [and the women are] placed next to each other. Straight away they call the [military] rabbi, [who asks, did they establish a 50 meter gap?] No, [then] you need a partition.”

Segment from Channel 13’s Hamakor program about the mixed service of men and women in Tank units. / Screenshot

Rabbi Kostiner spoke about the religious soldiers’ treatment of the women enrolled in the course:

“What to do in a dining room? Everyone in the dining room are together. My guys didn’t speak a word to any woman. They placed the bathrooms next to one another – no way, under any circumstances.”

In conclusion, Rabbi Kostiner declared: “All of this in the end affected the project. […] They realized that the girls’ tank was creating a lot of mess and gave up on everything.”

The Pilot to test mixing women and men in armor corps units began in July 2017. The purpose of the experiment was to examine whether and how women tank fighters could be integrated into the border defense system. 15 female soldiers went through a screening process and were selected to be the first to train as female armor fighters. One year later, four female soldiers completed the course. But although the pilot was reportedly a success, the IDF decided not to integrate the female fighters into existing tank units, nor establish new female or mixed units.

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