Women can do anything men can do in the army. If you don’t believe that, just ask Moran Almog. She should know. She recently completed 26 years in the IDF, smashing one glass ceiling after another.
In fact, once you get her started, Almog will soon tell you that women can do anything men can do – not only in the army, but in life in general – and usually much better.
As full-fledged, blue and white, born-and-bred sabra Israelis go, Almog is the real deal. Born in Ness Ziona 44 years ago to a family who as pioneering Jewish farmers and laborers founded and built the city, Almog recalls, “I grew up there all my life. I was always a tomboy. I was always climbing trees. I fell a lot.”
With a long family tradition of serving in the army, two parachutist brothers and a strong Zionist ethic, Almog’s path to the army was a clear straight line.
“I knew I wanted to be something special, that I wanted to do something big, for the country.”Still, while young women all over Israel proudly and enthusiastically enter the IDF, they don’t stay in the IDF for 26 years. Why did Almog?
“It’s a question I ask myself from time to time. A lot of time I thought to myself that maybe I want to have the kind of life some of my friends have – home, family, and maybe work as a teacher. But that’s not me. I’m not mother of the year. I have two kids, and they grew up with the reality that mom was in the army.” Almog pauses to reflect for a moment and adds, “I met my husband in the army. I think that if I hadn’t met him in the army, I might not have married at all.”
She started her army service in a training course. She trained soldiers at the Bahad 1 officers training base, became a men’s company commander and subsequently served in numerous field positions, from the Golan Heights to Eilat.
“I often woke up and didn’t know at first where I was, in the North or in the South. That’s how my life went on.”
And as her life went on, Almog was busy breaking a lot of glass ceilings.
“I did a lot of things in the army that women did not do, then or even now. I drove a big engineering tractor up in the Golan and everywhere. As I went from job to job, I loved being in the army more and more. I knew that this was my life. It fit me, and I fit the army. That’s important. You need to fit the army. You need to be tough. I think the army discovered that I’m tough. The army was good for me, and I was good for the army.”
Asked what it was like to be the only woman in a series of postings to otherwise all male units, Almog says, “Unlike today, we lived together. I was with men 24/7. They were like my brothers. I liked it! They treated me as an equal. Sometimes they treated me so equally that I had to say, ‘Hey, I’m a woman!’”
Although her field and combat assignments took her from one end of Israel to the other, Almog found herself particularly drawn to Hebron.
“I spent so much time in Hebron that I know it better than I know Ness Ziona, my hometown.” She made many close friends in that ancient disputed city, some of whom, she says, were Palestinians.
“I THINK that because I’m a woman, I was able to look at the situation in a different way. They are people. They are flesh and blood. Not always ‘the enemy.’” She relates a story of being a first responder at a traffic accident in one of Hebron’s Palestinian neighborhoods. With no other soldiers or police around, Almog rushed to the scene and began to treat the wounded. The local people were grateful and started to look at her differently.
“That’s why I tell people that maybe if women ran the world, it would be a better place. We don’t have egos like men have, and we do have something men don’t have – a good mind to think about things.” Almog nods silently to herself for a brief moment, and adds, “I recently heard a general on TV say that women should not be in units like Golani and Givati. I heard him say this and thought, ‘What the hell?’ Women can do everything! If you dream it, you can do it!”
The years went by, and Almog reached the rank of lieutenant-colonel. Away from home for long periods of time, she was fortunate in having a supportive family back in Ness Ziona to take care of her son and daughter, now 18 and 15.
“I am a good logistics officer, so I was able to build a good logistics unit at home – my father, my aunt, my husband. When I lived in the army, all my family lived in the army. I grew up in a family of lovers of the army. It was just something natural. No one told me to stay home.” Almog was also aided by a Filipina caregiver, employed primarily to take care of her daughter.
Her logistics skills became urgently needed in a totally unexpected way, however, as Almog found herself dealing with a very personal crisis. During the 2014 Gaza war, she served as coordinator in the General Staff and managed a war room providing logistical assistance to the IDF.
“I was involved with this for 52 days. I didn’t come home. My son was supposed to be bar mitzvah and we had to postpone it. For 52 consecutive days, I was like a robot. I barely ate or slept. It was a very difficult, intense situation, but this was my mission. This was what I was trained to do. When it was over, during a General Staff meeting to recap the war, I felt a little lump in my chest.”
Tested with mammography and ultrasound, Almog was diagnosed with breast cancer. After a very short period of shock and denial, Almog did what she does best.
“Once again, I became Moran the officer, with a new mission. I went to war with the cancer, determined to fight it to the end. That’s me, that’s what I do. I told everyone around me to be strong, because everything will be alright. I assembled a team of good doctors. I sat down with them and we made a plan. I wanted everyone to know what to do and when to do it, when to start treatment, when to do the surgery, what to do at every point of time. It was a plan exactly like we do in the army. That’s me. In the end, everything happened the way I planned. I know how to manage a crisis. That’s what I did for 26 years in the army. I managed the crisis of cancer.”
Now out of active service, Almog will continue to do reserve duty with combat units in the North.
“I will never really leave the army,” she says with laughter. Her long-term plans, however, lie elsewhere.
“I’m going to lecture. I’m going to tell my story to every man and woman who wants to hear me, all over the world. I want to teach people how to deal with life’s crises, even crises in the family, like divorce, financial crisis, everything. I want everyone in the world to hear me.”
And after that?
“I am thinking seriously of going into politics. I want to be a leader.”