IDF Caracal soldier.
(photo credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)
While there are more and more women being integrated into combat positions in Israel’s military, not all combat positions are suitable for women, said the Head of the IDF’s Manpower Directorate Maj.-Gen. Moti Almoz.
“I do not think that female soldiers need to serve as combat soldiers in the classic infantry brigades like Paratroopers or Golani,” he said in an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 news.
“In the end, a soldier has to take another soldier – 90 kilos – on his back on a stretcher, and walk 12 kilometers with him because he is wounded; sometimes you even have to take one on top of the other... that’s not right. It’s not only their capabilities, but the needs of the army also dictate.”
With several mixed-gender border defense battalions
, the IDF has in recent years increased the recruitment of women into combat units, with a record breaking 1,000 women inducted this summer, the most in Israel’s history.
An estimated 90% of the positions in the IDF are now open to women, including combat roles in the Navy, Home Front Command, Artillery Corps and Military Police in the West Bank. Other combat posts that have been cleared for female soldiers include operating the Spike (Tammuz) missile and the hand-launched Skylark UAV.
“When I was a company commander, we had a female company clerk – and on the whole she got along very well,” Almoz said, adding that “today, there are female company clerks, shooting instructors and physical trainers. Some places have additional female instructors.”
The military also recently updated the IDF’s Joint Service order which regulates interaction between troops of the opposite sex, defining appropriate attire while on base and enforcing mandatory separate sleeping quarters.
In November, the IDF announced that six female naval combat recruits enlisted in the navy
for the first time to serve on the new Sa’ar 6-class corvette missile ships. The new warships, which are currently being built in Germany, will have a completely separate section for female soldiers, complete with beds, showers and toilets.
But critics of gender integration in the military say it is a dangerous social experiment with potential ramifications for national security, because requirements for female combat troops have been lowered since women tend to suffer from stress-related injuries at a higher rate than men.
Rabbis have also criticized the integration of women into combat positions. There have been several cases where officers have taken excessively strict interpretation of rules so that religious male soldiers are comfortable.
“Such strict [practices] are in violation of army orders and policy, do unnecessary harm to wide-scale groups serving [in the army] and are inconsistent with the IDF commanders’ responsibility,” Almoz said in July, referring to a “ban” on women wearing white shirts at the Shizafon training base in southern Israel which came after religious male soldiers said that the shirts would be see-through and therefore immodest.
“The orders regarding appearance, dress and the common service are binding orders, and they must be acted upon as they are written. No commander may decide on his own to harshen or lighten them,” he said, stressing that the IDF is above politics.
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