1 out of 11 women progresses toward joining elite IDF combat unit

Going forward, the one female candidate will need to go up directly against men during any group training or wrestling exercise.

Female IDF soldiers of the Bardales Battalion (photo credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)
Female IDF soldiers of the Bardales Battalion
(photo credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)

Only one out of 11 women who were accepted for trying out for the elite IAF’s 669 Search and Rescue Unit passed the first round of vetting, the IDF announced on Sunday.

The tryout day was carried out using exactly the same training models and standards that have been used until now for similar elite units for men.

In order to enter Unit 669, the one woman who made it through the first round of tryouts will need to make it through a generic second round which is identical for all candidates as well as a third more individualized round.

An IDF source said that even the third individualized round would remain within the same parameters given to men in that round.

A video by KAN showed the 11 women along with a large group of men performing a variety of physical tasks on a beach.

Israeli soldiers of Caracal battalion (credit: AMIR COHEN - REUTERS)Israeli soldiers of Caracal battalion (credit: AMIR COHEN - REUTERS)

The candidates had to race, lift heavy objects, climb, swim, alternate between moving through the water while standing and diving back in, wrestling (the men only wrestled with men and the women with women) and perform other physically difficult feats.

Going forward, the one female candidate will need to go up directly against men during any group training or wrestling exercise.

The long struggle for women to get into elite IDF combat units

Even getting to the point where women could be in consideration for such a unit has been a long and winding path.

A petition to the High Court of Justice filed a few years ago helped pressure the IDF high command into opening some new combat units to women in recent years.

These included the Yahalom Combat Engineering Unit and mobile deployment units in the Infantry Corps. back in the summer. That women would be able to compete for spots in the IAF’s 669 Search and Rescue Unit was only announced in October and only came to fruition now.

Some groups still view this progress as inadequate. They note that there are other militaries where women are already allowed to serve in all elite combat units. Still, there is no question that the recent trend has been more integration of women into units that they previously could not serve in.

At a hearing on December 8, the High Court of Justice seemed to toe the line with the IDF on blocking women from serving in Sayeret Matkal, an army commando unit that goes behind enemy lines; naval commandos Shayetet 13, the IAF’s Shaldag special forces unit, the IDF’s Commando Brigade and the Israel Navy’s Submarine Unit.

Although the petitioners noted that even the more liberal approach to women is making them meet a double standard that men do not always need to meet in terms of height, weight and other criteria, the justices seemed satisfied to entangle the issue in procedural delays for several months or more.

The IDF itself commissioned a two-year study before deciding to integrate women into combat units less than some other armies already do.