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(photo credit: Yaakov Katz)
Meshi Sa'ad was in the Gaza Strip for 13 days during Operation Cast Lead in January. Ruti Caspi was inside for five, accompanying infantrymen from the Golani Brigade in the Gaza City neighborhood of Saja'iya.
Bat-El Maman, who was wounded by a mortar shell a year ago, spent the offensive stationed along the border with the Strip. Gali Levy, who left her family behind in New York to serve in the IDF, was deployed with her Caracal Battalion along the Sinai border, trying to prevent criminal and terror infiltrations into Israel.
All four women are paramedics in the army. They sat down with The Jerusalem Post on Sunday to discuss their experiences as combat soldiers and medics in honor of International Women's Day.
An IDF paramedic undergoes a 14-month course that includes a month working in a hospital and a month in a Magen David Adom ambulance crew. If accepted, female soldiers, who are obligated to serve two years in the IDF, are asked to sign on for an additional 16 months.
Almost half of IDF paramedics today are female. Paramedics are authorized to perform field surgeries if a doctor is not present.
"We do almost everything," Maman said.
During Cast Lead, she treated wounded soldiers who were evacuated to the border. "We stop bleeding, give morphine, treat shrapnel wounds, insert tubes into stomachs to drain blood, and basically everything that is needed in a battlefield," she said.
Sa'ad spent 13 days as the only female inside an armored personnel carrier in Gaza, together with eight men. She treated a number of soldiers, including some who were seriously wounded.
"When I crossed the border, I was a little scared, but after a while you get caught up in the work and get used to being there," she said.
Most soldiers are used to seeing women paramedics serving alongside them during operations in Gaza and the West Bank, the paramedics said. But there are some - mostly career officers and reservists - who are not used to it.
"One day I popped my head out of the APC and some soldiers saw me and couldn't believe that there was a female soldier serving in the Gaza Strip," Sa'ad said.
Levy enlisted after completing a year of pre-med undergraduate studies at Duke University in North Carolina. Her American friends still have difficulty understanding why she is here.
"They ask me what am I doing in Israel serving in the IDF," she said. "I explain that his is my country and that what I am doing is getting the best experience possible for a future medical career."
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