The IDF's personnel directorate subcommittee, under the leadership of MK Yoav Kish (Likud) discussed tightening the restrictions on soldiers growing beards today (Tuesday).
The meeting saw a range of opinions on the charged issue. MK Kish proposed allowing a unified standard for all soldiers, including secular ones, while allowing religious soldiers the option to grow a beard in accordance with their worldview.
MK Menachem Eliezer Moses (UTJ) argued that the Military Rabbinate must be involved in the decision, while MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid) said that the new rules should remain as they are.
During the course of the discussion, the head of the IDF's Personnel Directorate Branch revealed that, under the previous terms, no fewer than 25,000 shaving exemptions were given out. He claimed that the old system hurt the army's appearance and so new steps for receiving permission in order to make the process as lengthy as possible.
MK Shelah claimed that "the IDF's instructions on growing beards are not an attack on religious soldiers and don't affect their lifestyle. I checked the information with senior military officials, and soldiers whose religious identity includes growing a beard can continue growing it as before. The instructions are to renew the basic discipline, without which the army cannot function.
"The attacks on the IDF and on the Chief of Staff over this come from political reasons: This is a 'price tag' action against placing the Jewish Identity branch under the Personnel Directorate. Just as with the attacks on Lieutenant General Eizenkott over the rules of engagement, we have here a forceful attempt to show the army and the society who is in charge. Only the commanders will lead the IDF, according to their professional and ethical judgments, and not rabbis or those who act in the political system," he added.
MK Kish said that "If a religious soldier wants to grow a beard, there doesn't need to be a discussion about it here at all. As for secular soldiers, there must be clear criteria. Why prevent people from growing beards in any manner? Times change. If we can say that you're allowed to wear earrings, we can also allow beards."
When it was made clear that the new procedures have not yet been put into effect, MK Kish added, "We may meet again on this topic in another couple of months. It's important to understand that the environment has changed. Today, growing a beard is almost the standard. I expect that the IDF will adapt itself. The issue does not hurt the army's appearance according to the spirit of the times."