Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

11 Tishrei 5766 - October 15, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Religious Soldier Forced to Trample on Tallis

By Betzalel Kahn

Another anti-religious scandal rocked the IDF when the commander of a training course forced a religious soldier to tread on a tallis during a lesson on "values." The soldier suffered from shock and sought psychological assistance. In another serious incident a commander in a military jail shaved the beard off a chareidi bochur inducted against his will.

Based on press reports the religious soldier participating in a course at the Military Police's training base was given two sealed bags during a lesson on "values" and instructed to trample on the contents without looking. After doing so the soldier was dismayed to discover one of the bags contained white cloth while the other contained a tallis.

The soldier's family members said the soldier was in a state of shock and had to go to a mental health officer for psychological health. "Why me of all people? Why was I, a religious soldier, chosen for the task?" the soldier asked the course commander.

According to the reports the other soldiers in the course were appalled by the sight and wondered aloud what kind of educational message the course sought to convey. Several religious soldiers told the course commander the incident was an act of chilul Hashem.

The soldier's father reacted harshly to the disturbing incident as well. "The message you are conveying is to go and step on a tallis? Woe are we to have an army like this. My boy did this innocently as ordered and afterwards he learned he had stepped on a tallis. He stepped on his own soul."

The IDF says the course commander apologized to the soldier after the incident, claiming the bag was supposed to contain an Israeli flag and the soldier was supposed "to see the flag, not step on it and explain its importance to the other soldiers." Nevertheless the IDF was unsatisfied with these explanations and set up a board of inquiry.

In another incident reported in the press a military jail commander forcibly shaved the beard of a 21-year-old yeshiva student who had been arrested and sentenced to 28 days in jail for being "absent without leave" after he forgot to submit the deferment request he previously sent in every year.

His mother said during one of the first days of his jail stay the platoon sergeant at Jail 6 in Atlit came to him saying all soldiers without a permit to grow a beard would have to shave. The bochur explained he was chareidi, pointing out his payos and large yarmulke, but the platoon sergeant brought the bochur into his office, spread a permissible shaving lather on his face and proceeded to remove his beard.

"His face stung," recounted the young man's mother. "He was ashamed and in shock. But the sergeant threatened to put him away for a long time, so he did not resist." According to a report in Ma'ariv after the incident the bochur complained to the jail rabbi and following an investigation it was found the sergeant did not put the shaving cream on the soldier's face himself but merely compelled him through threats.

The chareidi soldier's mother has a different version of events. She claims jail officials tried to persuade him he had applied the shaving cream himself, but he insists it was the sergeant who did so. "The commanders told him they were allowed to do it because he had not received a permit to grow a beard," she said.

The IDF Spokesman's Office said according to the inquiry "the sergeant did order the soldier to shave without speaking to the base rabbi beforehand, but the soldier removed his beard himself using a halachically permitted shaving cream. The base commander determined the platoon sergeant did not handle the situation with proper sensitivity and sentenced him severely." The sergeant merely received a suspended sentence of seven days' detention.


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