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Religious women who served in IDF speak up in favor of female integrationIn response to some rabbis' fear-mongering rhetoric, more and more religious women who served in the army alongside men are choosing to speak up and say there's nothing to be afraid of.
Amid a heated public debate over the inclusion of women in IDF combat units, some Religious Zionist rabbis have been collecting testimonies from religious women who say they experienced difficulties in maintaining their religious lifestyle while serving alongside men. But now, many other religious female soldiers are painting an entirely different picture, criticizing their community's fears and sharing nothing but positive experiences.
"I had the most pleasant army service imaginable," says Yael, who served as a paramedic in the Armored Corps. "In fact, my only conflict was with the rabbi in my division, who didn't want to set up a section for women at the synagogue. He kept saying the army was no place for women and that he could help me get out of the army."
While admitting that her service occasionally put her in unfamiliar situations, Yael stresses that it did not weaken her religious beliefs. "Nobody ever forced me to eat non-kosher food or to touch men, or told me I couldn't pray," she says. "There's a natural dilemma, but it's going to happen anyway to every religious woman at some point."
In Yael's hometown of Yeruham, there's even a military prep school for religious women. "It's a blessing," she says. "I believe we would be much better off if everyone went to the army, rather than some doing one kind of service and others doing another."
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Timna, who served in the Caracal Battalion, says meeting non-religious people was an important experience for her that even strengthened her identity. "I can understand the rabbis," she says. "There's no doubt this kind of service is challenging, but lots of things in life are challenging."
"Choosing a lifestyle is indeed a choice," she continues, "and if the idea of meeting other kinds of people is frightening to some people, then maybe there's a deeper problem and they need to ask themselves if their choice was truly theirs to begin with. I don't want to live in a bubble."
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