Sephardi chief rabbi: Women can do the laundry in the army, not serve in combat
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Sephardi chief rabbi: Women can do the laundry in the army, not serve in combat

Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef attending a conference in the city of Beit Shemesh, Israel, Jan. 13, 2016. (Yaakov Lederman/Flash90)
Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef attending a conference in the city of Beit Shemesh, Israel, Jan. 13, 2016. (Yaakov Lederman/Flash90)

JERUSALEM — Israel’s Sephardic chief rabbi said women should not serve in the Israeli army nor perform national service, and women who went out to wars commanded by the Torah went “to do the laundry.”

Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef made the pronouncements Saturday night during his weekly Torah lesson, according to reports, citing the Jewish sage Radbaz.

“They didn’t wear uniforms and pants and the like, of course not. They went in modesty, in purity,” Yosef said.

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 spoke against 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 volunteering in positions deemed of service to the country, including working with underprivileged youth, in hospitals or in schools.

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

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