Holding True to their Values: Religious Young Women Protect Israel and the Torah
“My military service enabled me to do very meaningful, important work from a young age, expanded my world view, and allowed me to develop friendships with people of different backgrounds who I never would have met otherwise,” comments Hallel Weill, a graduate of Midreshet Lindenbaum‘s Claudia Cohen Torah/Army School (the “Hadas” Program) who performed her IDF military service in the Intelligence Corps.
“Because I learned in midrasha, I benefitted from the ongoing support during my service, with frequent visits from Rabbi Ohad Teharlev [Director of Israeli Programs at Midreshet Lindenbaum] and other faculty members, who came to our base up North every two weeks to give shiurim and offer guidance.”
Weill is just one of the OTS graduates who make up the bulk of an advertising campaign being run by the ALUMA organization, featuring young, religious women who have served in the IDF. These impressive young women are role models in their religious Zionist communities as well as in their largely secular army units for their devotion to Torah and country. They combine dedication to serving the Israeli people with a deep commitment to their religious ideals.
“I hung a different quote each day”
Carmel Landau attended OTS Oriya High School for Girls and then went to Midreshet Lindenbaum’s “Matat” branch in Carmiel before going on to serve as an IDF tatzpitanit (operating remote video surveillance along Israel’s land borders). “I fulfilled my values through protecting the citizens of Israel, and had to do so without the support network of family and community to which I was accustomed,” she explains.
“When I began my army service,” she continues, “I noticed inspirational sayings and drawings that my secular predecessors had hung by the work station. One evening, I decided to hang an inspirational thought from Jewish tradition. I noticed several soldiers reading and discussing it, and from then on, I hung a different quote or thought each day – from the Torah or Jewish philosophy.”
Another Hadas graduate, Ofir Regev, recalls having to remain on base for weeks at a time during her service in the elite 8200 intelligence unit – frequently including Shabbat and holidays.
“It wasn’t always easy working over Shabbat or Yom Kippur, especially in a largely secular environment where others were not observing tradition,” she relates.” I was prepared from the beginning that this would be my reality, and I knew I was strong enough to maintain my religious life in that environment. If anything, it became even more important for me to be observant and be a public role model to my secular peers.”
“The confidence to maintain my religious values and serve as a role model”
Another woman featured in the campaign, Amit Bar Lev, studied in Midrashit, Midreshet Lindenbaum’s three-month IDF preparatory program, before embarking upon her service as a commander in Gadna (preliminary training for IDF service). “For two years, I was the only religious woman in my army unit,” she shares. “I prayed alone. I kept Shabbat and holidays alone. But over time, I felt that my religious commitment had an impact on those around me. Other soldiers began to ask me questions. They wanted to understand what I was doing. My time at Midreshet Lindenbaum gave me the confidence to maintain my religious values and serve as a role model to those around me. And the fact that I was able to do that only made my commitment stronger.”
Hallel Weill confronted this issue on the very first day of her service. “On the day of my enlistment, I was offered a dress uniform that included a skirt, but was told that there weren’t any regular work uniforms with skirts available. I told my commander that I would wear my dress uniform for work until they were able to find me a suitable weekday work uniform. I learned that I needed to stay true to my values and speak up for myself, because no one else would do it for me.
“I gained tremendous skills during my army service,” she said. “And I learned lessons that I take with me in everything I do today.”