Battling for equality in IDF

88% of IDF courses and positions are open to women, including pilot's course.

female soldier girl look (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
female soldier girl look
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Brig.-Gen. Devorah Hasid compares herself to the white ball in a game of pool. It is her job, she says, as the IDF Chief of Staff's adviser on women affairs, to try and create a more equal military and the results are not always immediate. "Sometimes," she says, "it is just about getting the ball rolling and starting the process." While the IDF was a "bastion of masculinity" and had a long way to go until it operated with full equality between women and male soldiers, the future, Hasid told The Jerusalem Post this week, was promising. Eighty-eight percent of IDF courses and positions were currently open to women soldiers including the prestigious pilot's course as well as light-infantry positions. What about the remaining 12 percent? Hasid said it was only a matter of time. "The army will become more equal in a number of years," she said from her office in the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv during an interview marking International Women's Day. "By 2010, men and women will begin serving the same amount of time [two years], the selection process will be the same for men and women... and there will be a drastic demographic change and we will see a huge increase in the number of women serving in the IDF." For now, however, Hasid said she was waiting for the results of a specially-commissioned report on the physiological makeup of women, including their bone density and fat percentage, to see if they could serve in tough infantry units within the Paratroopers, Givati or Golani Brigades. Hasid said she did not have any illusions and was well aware that there would be jobs women would not be able to fill but noted that this would be due to physical constraints and not sexism. "There are major differences between men and women," she conceded. "But there needs to be equal opportunity for everybody regardless and the reason not to incorporate women in a specific job needs to be relevant." Out of the thousands of women who enlisted in the army in 2005, 28% asked to volunteer in combat units and to serve three years, instead of the mandatory two for female soldiers. The female combat soldier's success, she explained, depended on the commander's ability to be open and patient with the differences between males and females. "If you make a female soldier carry the same equipment as a male soldier with a helmet and nine rifle magazines then there is no way she will succeed," Hasid said. That is why she frequently meets with field commanders to help them understand the needs and abilities of female combat soldiers. Currently, Hasid is working on opening a new field intelligence course for female soldiers as well as positions in Search and Rescue units and in the Navy. While Hasid believes she will succeed in opening the new courses and creating a more equal military, her job is sometimes extremely frustrating. She even comes under personal attack from some of the male senior officers who do not want to see women in senior or combat positions. Another goal Hasid has set for herself is changing the induction process and instituting harsher guidelines for granting exemptions to women who claim to be religious and therefore cannot serve in the IDF. Recent reports of models having received exemptions from the army after claiming to be religious were unacceptable, she said, and needed to be stopped. "The army will make the rules stricter," she declared, "and will force the girls who claim to be religious to bring proof such as which high school they went to." One of the more sensitive issues is the promotion of female officers. With currently over 200 female lieutenant colonels and three brigadier generals, Hasid said she was waiting for the day when a woman is appointed a member of the IDF General Staff and receive the rank of major-general. "It took us 50 years to open the first pilot's course for women," she said laughing. "So we will probably just need to wait a little longer until a woman is promoted to a major-general."