The IDF trailblazers making history for Israeli women in uniform

No. 48 on The Jerusalem Post's Top 50 Most Influential Jews of 2022: IDF Maj. Neta Blum and Brig.-Gen. Naama Rosen-Greenberg.

 FROM LEFT: IDF Maj. Neta Blum and Brig.-Gen. Naama Rosen-Greenberg. (photo credit: DEFENSE MINISTRY, HAIM ZACH/GPO)
FROM LEFT: IDF Maj. Neta Blum and Brig.-Gen. Naama Rosen-Greenberg.

As the IDF continues in its trend of promoting women to senior positions, two female officers have broken the glass ceiling in the past year. 

Maj. Neta Blum

Maj. Neta Blum is commanding one of the most important and strategic departments of the Defense Ministry, responsible for key projects to protect the country and keep it far ahead of its enemies.

Blum is the head of the Cyber Section in the Defense Ministry’s Directorate of Research and Development (known by its Hebrew acronym MAFAT) and a true trailblazer for women.

She began her career in a program called Brakim, an excellence program that combines undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering at Haifa’s Technion-Israel Institute of Technology while completing her military service. She was the only woman in the elite four-year program, where only half of the students ultimately completed the course. 

After graduating, she spent her military service in the Israel Air Force investigating airplane crashes before she moved to MAFAT, where she first served as the head of the Aviation Sciences Section. 

 IN ADDITION to her day job at MAFAT and her volunteer work, Blum is also in the midst of completing her PhD at the Technion. (credit: Tal Oz) IN ADDITION to her day job at MAFAT and her volunteer work, Blum is also in the midst of completing her PhD at the Technion. (credit: Tal Oz)

While the majority of her work is classified, she told The Jerusalem Post that in her previous role, her department, along with Israel Aerospace Industries, produced the country’s first 3D-printed unmanned aerial vehicle, called SkysPrinter.

Blum could not expand on the various projects in her present role as head of the cyber division, but she said, “We make a big impact with our cyber activities. MAFAT is always at the forefront in terms of new technologies.”

At the R&D directorate, she said, “We deal with challenges by always staying No. 1 by inventing technology that is needed to protect the country.”

But her work is not limited to MAFAT. She has been instrumental in promoting women in technology and cyber with various programs. In addition to her day job at MAFAT, as well as her volunteer work, Blum is in the midst of completing her PhD at the Technion.

Blum has always wanted to make an impact on the country. In a recent interview, she said that she truly enjoys going into the office in the morning and saying to colleagues, “What does the country need and what can we do for it?”

“I always wanted to make an impact, even as a kid. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. Here we have the privilege to be involved in great projects,” she said.

Brig.-Gen. Naama Rosen-Greenberg

ALONG WITH Blum, Brig.-Gen. Naama Rosen-Greenberg made history at the end of July when she became the first woman to serve as the military aide to the president of the State of Israel and became the eighth woman in the IDF to hold the rank of brigadier-general, the third-highest rank.

She is the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, and her father was killed while on active duty in the IDF. Married with two children, Rosen-Greenberg’s appointment was approved by Defense Minister Benny Gantz and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi.

The 40-year-old has served in the IDF for 22 years in a number of senior roles in the Military Intelligence Directorate, such as her last position as chief intelligence officer with the army’s Central Command, also a first for a female officer.

In her current position, she will be responsible for all security updates for President Isaac Herzog, as well as for meetings between him and security officials and security agencies.

Rosen-Greenberg joins a growing list of women serving in more senior positions in the military. Her appointment comes shortly after Brig.-Gen. Liron Donnell was also appointed to serve as the right-hand woman of the commander of the IDF’s Home Front Command. 

There is a growing trend in the IDF of women serving in senior combat roles, such as the first female combat brigade commander, Col. Reut Rettig-Weiss; and the first woman to head the IAF’s 66th Battalion, which operates the David’s Sling missile defense system, Lt.-Col. Revital Barzani.

There have only been two women to hold the rank of major-general: Maj.-Gen. (res.) Orna Barbivai; and Maj.-Gen. Yifat Tomer-Yerushalmi, who replaced Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Sharon Afek as the IDF’s top lawyer – the military advocate general.

Women have fought for years to have the combat doors open once again for them, and now an estimated 90% of the positions in the IDF are now open to women, such as combat roles in the navy, Home Front Command, Artillery Corps and Military Police in the West Bank. 

But women are still barred from serving in infantry brigades, armored brigades, submarines and certain elite reconnaissance units like the General Staff Reconnaissance Unit (Sayeret Matkal) and the navy’s Shayetet 13.

The army insists that it is allowing more women to serve in combat positions out of practical considerations, not due to a social agenda. And with more and more women reaching the ranks of brigadier-general, it is only a matter of time before more women reach the rank of major-general and even one day perhaps command over the IDF as chief of staff.