Israeli commanders forbade soldiers with beards from participating in a Holocaust commemoration event last week at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, citing regulations.
An Israel Defense Forces spokesperson confirmed to the news site 0404 the existence of regulations that prevent “any soldier who is not shaven” from participating in official ceremonies. The spokesperson was replying to a query following instructions given to troops from the Paratroopers Brigade.
Many Orthodox religious Jews do not shave their beards, and IDF regulations permit facial hair for religious reasons. But recently, IDF officers have cracked down on the practice, requiring the signed approval of a colonel.
The disclosure prompted criticism by Bezalel Smotrich, a lawmaker for the right-wing Jewish Home party, who called on the IDF to scrap the regulation.
“This regrettable regulations reflects a disconnect and perhaps cultural rejection from Jewish values,” he told the news site Srugim. “I call on the chief of staff to change it. One cannot encourage service by religious and Haredi soldiers on the one hand, and then exclude them from ceremonial functions based on the claim that their appearance is undignified.”
An unnamed soldier told 0404, “Yad Vashem has pictures of Jews who were murdered because of their beards. It’s strange that there of all places soldiers may not be seen with a beard.”
Religious Israeli publications recently published the rejected application of a soldier who sought to be assigned to officer’s training. In explaining his negative opinion, the soldier’s commander wrote, “A future commander is expected to shave.”
Last week, Israel's Supreme Court rejected a petition by soldiers seeking an injunction that would simplify the procedure for getting permission to grow facial hair.