Sephardic Chief Rabbi: Women can do the laundry in the army, not serve in combat

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi said women should not serve in the Israel Defense Forces and should not perform national service.

Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef made the pronouncements on Saturday night during his weekly Torah lesson, according to reports.

He cited the Rambam as saying that women who go out to wars commanded by the Torah  went “to do the laundry,” he explained. “They didn’t wear uniforms and pants and the like, of course not. They went in modesty, in purity.”

He also said: “It is the ruling of all the great rabbis of the generations, including Israel’s chief rabbis, the position of the Chief Rabbinate—it has always been their position that girls must not enlist in the army… there are female pilots, all sorts of stuff. Is that the way of the Torah?! That’s not the way of the Torah.”


He said that he also opposed National Service for women, saying ” Unfortunately, on this matter there is some weakness.”

Religious Jewish women and others who are exempt from army service can spend up to two years in volunteer service to the country. Positions include working with underprivileged youth, working in hospitals or working in schools.

Yosef said that if Jews in Israel followed the Torah, “many [military] tragedies would be averted.”  He said that his father, former Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel Rabbi Ovadia Yosef  died of “heartache” because of the political battle over yeshiva students serving in the army.