With more and more IDF units becoming co-ed, and with more and more religious men enlisting, many women serving in the army feel uncomfortable and unwelcome, saying they are constantly reprimanded for not complying with a strict dress code.

Photo Credit: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit/Channel 2 News

Exactly a year ago, the IDF updated its rules regarding mixed-gender units, hoping to find a healthy balance between the value systems of two populations whose presence in combat units was consistently on the rise – female soldiers and religious male soldiers.

As it turns out, though, the implementation of the new rules – which include strict dress codes for women and allow religious men to avoid activities in which women are present – has caused many female soldiers to feel very uncomfortable.

“We cannot wear bright colors, especially not white shirts,” said one female soldier. “That’s because they say it may be see-through. Even if you’re wearing a white sweatshirt, they’ll tell you to put something else on.”

“When we were on a day off at the swimming pool, the guys were allowed to wear their swimsuits while we were told to wear a shirt and pants,” recounted another. “They never explained why.”

Many aspects of the rules, say the women soldiers who agreed to be interviewed anonymously, are often taken to the extreme. For instance, while the rules say nothing about two friends hugging, sometimes even an innocent act like that can be frowned upon.

“Two women in our unit were punished for braiding each other’s hair,” a third soldier said.

Even in their privacy of their own bedrooms, women soldiers say they are often checked upon to make sure they’re properly dressed. “If a commander saw that a soldier wasn’t wearing a bra before bedtime, she would tell her that she would be punished unless she put on her bra,” said one of the soldiers.

Another one added, “It feels like we’re being reprimanded for the wrong reasons, for even having a body to begin with. They’re always looking at how we sit, how we dress.”

Women have been serving in a variety of IDF units since its very foundation, despite continuous opposition voiced by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. But lately, it seems, the army has been more attentive to the rabbis’ demands.

The IDF said in response, “Some of the issues presented in the article do not reflect the spirit of the new rules. The IDF makes considerable efforts to clarify the rules in order to avoid unnecessary restrictions and wrong interpretations.”