The female combat soldier subjected to intense and humiliating verbal and physical abuse by fellow soldiers in the Caracal Battalion after they discovered she was a lesbian will join a new unit next week at her own request, Lt.-Col. Shirley Karni, deputy head of the army's women's affairs division, told The Jerusalem Post.
If all the allegations are corroborated, the soldier's ordeal is one of the most serious ever encountered, said Karni, who received a fax from the soldier on October 2.
The soldier, who wanted to serve in a combat unit, raised her military profile to be accepted to the battalion. She excelled in her duties and was considered an outstanding soldier.
However, when the harassment began, her commanders refused to send her to an officers' course, and made no effort to intervene and stop the soldiers from pestering and humiliating her.
According to media reports, soldiers in the unit harassed her, wrote slogans referring to her sexual tendencies, and advised her to commit suicide. They threatened to inform her parents, burst into the bathroom when she was in the shower, stole her personal and military equipment, and in one incident refused to allow her on a truck, forcing her to drag her equipment for a number of kilometers to the meeting site. When she subsequently arrived late, they jeered at her.
In another instance, she was sent to do guard duty at an isolated outpost. Even there, she was confronted with graffiti sprayed on the walls of the post. In one instance, soldiers wrote: "Insecticide spray for mosquitos and lesbians." When the soldier approached her commanding officers seeking their assistance, they ignored her pleas for help.
"The first thing I did was to contact her and talk with her, and then I checked with the relevant parties to ensure that the matter was being dealt with at all levels," said Karni. "I received confirmation that the necessary authorities were aware and dealing with the issue, including the Military Police who are also investigating," Karni said.
When she first spoke with the soldier, the woman was scared that she would no longer be able to serve in a combat role after she submitted a complaint to the IDF Ombudsman's unit detailing her account.
Karni explained to her that in accordance with the law she could only act if the soldier asked for a transfer. Ten days later the soldier contacted Karni on her private line and asked to be transferred to a combat position elsewhere.
"One of the most important things any soldier must realize is that we do not treat them as the victim; it is up to them to decide whether they want to be transferred to another unit," Karni said.
Karni immediately contacted the relevant parties and the soldier has already undergone several interviews with commanders at the new unit, which she will move to next week. The entire affair was being treated as a sexual harassment case, said Karni, adding that it was the first time she had ever had to deal with such an incident.
"If indeed all the details are proven true, then those involved, whether officers or soldiers, will be held accountable," she said. At the same time, Karni cautioned, against besmirching the entire battalion because of the unworthy acts of a few.
Karni also praised the new battalion commander Lt.-Col. Guy Oshri, who recently took up the position and has been extremely cooperative. Oshri, interviewed on Israel Radio, said that while the incidents occurred before he took up the post, he has already met and spoken with the soldier three times.
"Such behavior is unacceptable in the army, and I do not intend to ignore what has happened," he said. "There was a social problem in the battalion that the commanders failed to deal with," he added.
Last February, the Caracal, named after the desert wildcat in the Negev, became an independent infantry battalion, in which men and women serve side by side.