Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Women in the Military

I'm presenting a session on "Women in the Military" on Wednesday night, Gd-willing. I want to look at the issue on a philosophical level, in terms of how modern feminism will address the issues that come up, and particularly the key problem of trying to change social constructs when you recognize their underlying validity. Here are the sources I plan to use:



Two kinds of war
1.         Rambam, Sefer haMitzvot, Commandments 190-191
והמצוה הק"צ היא המשפט שנתן לנו במלחמת שאר האומות והיא הנקראת (מתני' סוטה ספ"ח סנה' ב א, כ ב) מלחמת הרשות...
והמצוה הקצ"א היא שצונו שנמנה כהן שיוכיח לעם תוכחת המלחמה...
The 190th commandment is the law given to us regarding wars with other nations; this is called "optional war"… The 191st commandment is that He instructed us to appoint a kohen to rebuke the nation regarding the war …

May women engage in"optional war"? Why / Why not?
2.         Rambam, Introduction to his count of the mitzvot
וידוע שאין הנשים דנות... ולא נלחמות במלחמת רשות
It is known that women do not judge… and do not fight in optional wars.

3.         Talmud, Nazir 59a
רבי אליעזר בן יעקב אומר מנין שלא תצא אשה בכלי זיין למלחמה ת"ל לא יהיה כלי גבר על אשה ולא ילבש גבר שמלת אשה
R’ Eliezer ben Yaakov said: How do we know that a woman may not go out to war with weapons? It is written, ‘The implements of a man shall not be upon a woman.’

4.         Payam Akhavan, Beyond Impunity: Can International Criminal Justice Prevent Future Atrocities?, The American Journal of International Law 95:7
Through systematic indoctrination and misinformation, political leaders created an aberrant context of inverted morality in which dehumanization and violence against members of the "enemy" group were legitimized as purported acts of self-defence.

5.         H. Patricia Hynes, Military Sexual Abuse: A Greater Menace Than Combat, Truthout
http://truth-out.org/news/item/6299:military-sexual-abuse-a-greater-menace-than-combat
Women in the military are raped and sexually assaulted at significantly higher rates than in civilian society. A 2003 study of women seeking health care through the VA from the period of the Vietnam war through the first Gulf War found that nearly 1 in 3 women was raped while serving - almost twice the rate of rape in US society - and that 8 in 10 women had been sexually harassed during their military service. Rates were consistent through all periods and wars studied. Of those who reported having been raped, 37 percent were raped at least twice and 14 percent were gang-raped. 
What's often overlooked in these statistics is that the reported prevalence of rape in the military is based on a period of 2-6 years in military service, whereas the sexual assault of women in civilian society (nearly 1 in 5) is based on lifetime prevalence - signifying an even more concentrated culture of sexual assault and a higher threat for active-duty military women from fellow soldiers. A distinct pattern has emerged from VA studies which reveals older and sometimes senior men rape younger and more junior women, exposing the dominance motive in rape.
In the spring of 2011, the Air Force released results from a survey of sexual assault conducted by Gallup of nearly 20,000 male and female "airmen" (sic). Nearly 1 in 5 women reported being sexually assaulted while in the service, with most of the perpetrators being men in the Air Force.

6.         Proclamation of 1953  http://chareidi.shemayisrael.com/archives5765/mishpotim/MSH65features.htm
"Since we have already stated our position, daas Torah, regarding the draft of girls, which is an accessory (avrizraihu) to one of the three cardinal sins, the ruling of which is known that one must submit oneself to death rather than transgress it, and since the government stands to institute a law obligating Jewish daughters by force to present themselves for the draft of civil national service outside the framework of the military, we therefore publicly state our position and halachic ruling that this prohibition against the mobilization of women refers also to Sherut Leumi in its full severity.
"We appeal to all Jewish daughters and we obligate you by power of the Torah to gather and stand up for your lives, to be an example for all of Jewry like Chanah and her seven sons, and like the four hundred boys and girls who were taken into captivity for shameful purposes and who cast themselves into the sea, to oppose with all your might the kidnappers who have risen against you. You are commanded hereby to choose to be imprisoned in jail and accept upon yourselves to suffer poverty and suffering and thereby to sanctify the name of Heaven, as it is written, `For Your sake have we been killed every day' (Gittin 57)."

7.         Talmud, Yevamot 65b
'ומלאו את הארץ וכבשוה' - איש דרכו לכבש ואין אשה דרכה לכבש
'And fill the land and conquer it' – A man's way is to conquer; it is not a woman's way to conquer.

8.         Talmud, Kiddushin 2b
דרכו של איש לעשות מלחמה ואין דרכה של אשה לעשות מלחמה
It is the manner of a man to wage war; it is not the manner of a woman to wage war.

9.         R' Tzvi Yehudah Kook on Yevamot 65b (printed in footnote 124 to שיחות הרב צבי יהודה, פר' כי תצא)
שאין דרך רגילותה ומנהגה כך, ולא שהיא אסורה בזה בבחינת חק של תורה ומצוה, אלא מצד טבעה והרגלה
This is not her normal conduct and custom. It is not that she is prohibited by statute of Torah and commandment, but by her nature and normal conduct.

10.      Talmud, Yevamot 76b
'על אשר לא קדמו אתכם בלחם ובמים' - דרכו של איש לקדם ולא דרכה של אשה לקדם
'Because they did not greet you with bread and water' – It is the manner of a man to greet [strangers], it is not the manner of a woman to greet.

11.      Mishnah Shabbat 6:4
לא יצא האיש לא בסייף ולא בקשת ולא בתריס ולא באלה ולא ברומח ואם יצא חייב חטאת רבי אליעזר אומר תכשיטין הן לו וחכמים אומרים אינן אלא לגנאי שנאמר 'וכתתו חרבותם לאתים וחניתותיהם למזמרות לא ישא גוי אל גוי חרב ולא ילמדו עוד מלחמה'
A man should not travel [on Shabbat, in a public area] with a sword or bow or shield or lance or spear; should he do so, he would be liable for a sin offering. R' Eliezer said: These are ornaments for him! The Sages said: These are only disgraceful, as it is written, 'And they will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks…'

The problem of "mitzvah wars" and other precedents
12.      Mishnah Sotah 8:7
במלחמת מצוה הכל יוצאין אפילו (יואל ב') חתן מחדרו וכלה מחופתה
In mitzvah wars everyone goes, even the groom from his room and the bride from her chuppah.

13.      R' David ibn Abi Zimra to Mishneh Torah, Hilchot, Melachim 7:4
וי"ל דה"ק כיון דחתן יוצא מחדרו כלה יוצאה מחופתה שאינה נוהגת ימי חופה ואפשר דבמלחמת מצוה הנשים היו מספקות מים ומזון לבעליהן וכן המנהג היום בערביות
One could suggest that he was saying that a groom leaves his chamber and a bride leaves her chuppah, since they won't observe the days of the chuppah. Or, perhaps, in a mitzvah war the women provide water and food for their husbands, as is the custom today in Arab lands.

14.      R' Tzvi Yehudah Kook, Letter from 1977 (printed in footnote 128 to שיחות הרב צבי יהודה, פר' כי תצא)
מפורש במשנה במסכת סוטה בפרק האחרון כי למלחמת מצוה הכל יוצאים, אפילו חתן מחדרו וכלה מחופתה. וכן בהלכות מלכים ברמב"ם. אמנם הלכה כבתראי כרדב"ז.
It is explained in a mishnah in the last chapter of Sotah that all go to a mitzvah war, even a groom from his chamber and a bride from her chuppah. And so it is in the Rambam's Laws of Kings. However, the law follows the latest authority, Radbaz.

15.      Shoftim 4:8-10 (modified JPS translation)
וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלֶיהָ בָּרָק אִם תֵּלְכִי עִמִּי וְהָלָכְתִּי וְאִם לֹא תֵלְכִי עִמִּי לֹא אֵלֵךְ: וַתֹּאמֶר הָלֹךְ אֵלֵךְ עִמָּךְ אֶפֶס כִּי לֹא תִהְיֶה תִּפְאַרְתְּךָ עַל הַדֶּרֶךְ אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה הוֹלֵךְ כִּי בְיַד אִשָּׁה יִמְכֹּר ד' אֶת סִיסְרָא וַתָּקָם דְּבוֹרָה וַתֵּלֶךְ עִם בָּרָק קֶדְשָׁה: וַיַּזְעֵק בָּרָק אֶת זְבוּלֻן וְאֶת נַפְתָּלִי קֶדְשָׁה וַיַּעַל בְּרַגְלָיו עֲשֶׂרֶת אַלְפֵי אִישׁ וַתַּעַל עִמּוֹ דְּבוֹרָה:
And Barak said to her: If you will go with me then I will go; if you will not go with me, I will not go.
And she said: I will surely go with you, but your glory will not come from the path you travel. Gd will sell Sisera into the hands of a woman.
And Devorah arose and went with Barak, to Kadesh. And Barak alerted Zevulun and Naftali to Kadesh, and ten thousand men ascended with him, and Devorah ascended with him.

16.      Rashi to Nazir 59a
וזה שמצינו ביעל אשת חבר הקיני שלא הרגתו לסיסרא בכלי זיין אלא כמו שנאמר ידה ליתד תשלחנה
As far as Yael, wife of Chever the Kenite, she did not kill Sisera with a weapon; rather, as it is said, "She sent her hand to the peg."

Is this a struggle for the sake of society, against society?
17.      Eetta Prince-Gibson, Religious Leaders Attack IDF on the Gender Battlefield, Jerusalem Post Service, http://www.jweekly.com/article/full/15267/religious-leaders-attack-idf-on-the-gender-battlefield/
Moreover, said Rabbi Eliezer Sadan, head of the pre-military yeshiva in Eli, placing women in combat units violates their nature. "Women have wonderful qualities. It is their nature to nurture and to produce life. The army is ugly and powerful, and war is painful. We must protect women from the army. "In the War of Independence, we had no choice and women had to serve. Today, thank Gd, we have a choice, so we must not teach women to kill. It will damage their souls."
Chazan, a Meretz member, responded angrily: "Who are you to decide that? Let every woman decide what her nature is!"

18.      Erin Solaro, An Unabashed Feminist Writes About Women in the Military, http://www.pbs.org/pov/regardingwar/conversations/women-and-war/introductions-an-unabashed-feminist-writes-about-women-in-the-military.php
I am an overt and unabashed feminist: I believe women have the same civic and human worth men do. Part of that worth is the right — and the responsibility — to bear arms in the common defense (of which military service is only one part). We — women — live here too, and we are equal in all things, not just the good things of civilization. The military is also an important part of society: at its best, it is the honorable profession of arms. It is utterly imperative that women be part of it. It is our military, our society, our world, and the outcome of this odd, utterly real, botched-beyond-belief war we are fighting with radical fundamentalist Islam is important to us… Then there is the simple fact that if women are marginalized in the military and defense and foreign policy, so are our needs, our experiences and perspectives. That women, like men, are individuals neither changes the fact that there are specifically female needs, experiences, and perspectives nor the reality that when half the population is systematically excluded from and marginalized in an institution — any institution — that institution is necessarily warped. And that is a bad thing: for society, the institution and for women in general.

3 comments:

  1. Not a comment on the post, but - in a recent shiur you uploaded, on bone grafts in Halacha, someone asked (at around the 27-minute mark) why, if burial is only a rabbinic mitzva, the kohen gadol is allowed to override his biblical prohibition against tum'ah to bury a meis mitzva, and you responded that you would answer that in the follow-up email the real-space attendees would get... I realize this may not be the right place to ask, but what was the answer to his question?

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  2. D-
    Thanks for asking.

    It appears to me, based on Berachot 19b-20a and Rashi 20 שב, that even those who consider burial a rabbinic mitzvah will have to admit that there is a biblical mitzvah of burying a מת מצוה, as indicated by the Torah's specific mention of ולאחותו to exclude a kohen from liability for becoming tamei in order to bury a מת מצוה.

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