JERUSALEM (JTA) – The Israeli army reportedly will postpone implementing tougher regulations on beards following complaints from hundreds of religious soldiers and criticism from a prominent rabbi who compared the edict to Nazi Germany.
Under the requirements that were scheduled to go into effect Tuesday, soldiers would have to get permission to keep a beard from their commander rather than the military chaplain. But on Monday afternoon, the Israel Hayom newspaper reported that the Israel Defense Forces would postpone putting the rules into effect.
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, chief rabbi of the Beit El settlement in the West Bank, called the new rules “the dark days of the IDF,” and cited a Holocaust-era photo showing Nazi soldiers standing and mocking as they force one Jewish man to shave the beard of another in the street.
“It doesn’t say anywhere that a nonreligious Jew has to shave, except in Nazi Germany,” Aviner said in a halachic question-and-answer section on the Srugim website that appeared Sunday.
The Association of Hesder Yeshivas said Sunday that it has received hundreds of complaints in recent days from religious soldiers reporting their requests to keep a beard were denied or unanswered, according to The Jerusalem Post. The denials or unanswered requests meant the soldiers must shave by Tuesday. Men in the hesder program combine religious studies with army service.
Israel’s Supreme Court struck down an appeal last year against the new regulations.
IDF spokesman Brig.-Gen. Motti Almoz told Israel Hayom that there is no change in the IDF’s beard policy, despite having commanders make the decision.
“I pledge that every religious soldier who wants to grow a beard can do so provided that he is truly religiously observant,” Almoz said. “If there is an error, there will be a way to appeal the decision.”