The App that Accompanies Religious Women in the IDF
An app created by a student at OTS’s Midreshet Lindenbaum offers religious female soldiers a daily dose of Torah
by Gadi Deutsch | Maariv Online | 4 February, 2019
(Translated from Hebrew)
The conversation about religious women serving in the IDF continues; appearances of new videos opposing their recruitment, various statements from rabbis on the topic, claims of religious coercion in the army… the press is abuzz on the subject which remains in the news. And in the middle of it all stand the women themselves, young religious soldiers serving in the IDF.
There is one question which concerns the young women, their parents and the rabbis alike – how will they maintain their connection to Judaism while they serve in the military? One of the ways is to encourage daily Torah study through booklets with a daily dose of Torah. The Israeli Rabbinate publishes one such booklet, called “Belechtecha BaDerech – as you walk on the way” and the Shavei Hevron yeshiva publishes another, called “Lechu Lachamu Belachmi – nourish yourself with Torah.” However, these booklets are geared toward men. Today’s women have a more innovative answer: an app, developed by a student in the Hadas Program at OTS’s Midreshet Lindenbaum, offers daily Torah learning to young religious women in the IDF.
M, who developed the initial app, has been serving for over three years as an officer in the Technological Unit of the Intelligence Corps. She explains, “I came to Midreshet Lindenbaum after I had already decided to enlist in the IDF’s cyber-warfare program. Rav Ohad (Teharlev, the Director Israeli Programs at Midreshet Lindenbaum) came up with the idea of an app for daily study to be used by the program’s alumnae in the army. I told him that I wasn’t sure I could develop apps, but I could try.”
M tried and indeed developed such an app. The content is written by the Midreshet Lindenbaum students, and each year before they are inducted, the content is collected and uploaded to the app; this content constitutes the daily studies once they begin their army service. Every year, the content is renewed as a new class of young women enroll in the Hadas Program at the midrasha.
Every two weeks, Rav Teharlev and other members of the Midreshet Lindenbaum staff visit the 19 bases on which the midrasha soldiers serve. Rav Teharlev views the app as just another way for the young women to maintain their connection and to strengthen their religion while in the army. He says, “Instead of taking a booklet with them, they have this in their pockets, on their smartphones, just like everything else they keep track of on their phones.”
M has updated the app every year, until “my IDF workload didn’t leave me any time to keep it up,” she says, explaining that she transferred responsibility to another programmer. “Someone else is replacing me, but I am happy that something that was just an idea is now an actual app which provides daily inspiration to midrasha students and others currently in the army.”
The app is called “Hadas Yomi,” named after the Hadas Program at Midreshet Lindebaum, through which the young women enlist in order to combine their military service with with a broad and profound Torah foundation, connecting between the values of Am Yisrael and Torat Yisrael. It is rooted in this background that the young women encounter Israeli society and contribute significantly to the state, through enlistment or national service. Today, 95% of the young women in the midrasha enlist in the IDF.
Rav Ohad Teharlev says, “What is so special about the app is that the young women themselves prepare the content. They are the ones who choose what to write and what to learn. It can be a Torah idea or a text which influenced a student and inspired her. There are passages from commentary books on the Torah, stories from the Talmud and literature passages that relate to the nature of the service of the Jewish people – whatever they choose to accompany them during their military service. Anyone can download the app, whether she attended Midreshet Lindenbaum or not. The goal is to provide all religious young women who enlist in the army with the ability to stop for a minute every day – to stop and read a Torah idea, think about with a book, an author or a commentary that they learned during the year they spent in the beit midrash, and reconnect with their spiritual side. It goes without saying that we are always here for them as well.”