Legal Forum for the Land of Israel Protests New IDF Regulations on Beards as Discriminating Against Religious Soldiers (3.02.09)

March 2, 2009

On March 2, 2009, the Israel Defense Forces announced new regulations on soldiers' ability to grow beards. Previously, the regulations allowed a soldier to grow a beard for religious reasons without any restrictions. Under the new rules, however, a soldier who wants to grow a beard for religious reasons will have to get a recommendation from a military rabbi and then a permit from a officer in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel or above. In addition, the rules mandate an automatic one year waiting period for growing a beard on a soldier who was tried for disciplinary charges for violating the new regulations and a soldier who shaved his beard.  

According to the memorandum announcing the regulations, growing a beard in violation of the new restrictions violates the image of the IDF in the eyes of the nation.  The truth, however, is that these new violations violate the image and character of the IDF as a Jewish army of a Jewish state as well as the religious liberty of Jewish soldiers and sends an anti-religious message to the both the national-religious sector, which makes up an large proportion of the IDF's officer corp., and the Haredi-sector which on the other side of the spectrum already resists IDF service because it views the state as anti-religious. 

The American Legal Forum for the Land of Israel calls on the IDF to reinstate the exemptions for soldiers growing beards for religious purposes and allow the soldier's declaration to satisfy the initial burden of proof of his religious purpose, absent evidence that his declaration is false.

Selected Documents