IDF personnel chief: Not all combat suitable for women

Women are finding greater roles in the Israeli military, but there are limits, says IDF manpower chief.

By David Jablinowitz, World Israel News

This past summer, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced that some 1,000 women had been inducted into the military to serve in combat units, in what was said to be the largest installment in Israeli history.

The new record came as the IDF was incorporating female soldiers into a growing number of combat roles.

In 2014, the IDF appointed Major Oshrat Bacher as Israel’s first female combat battalion commander. The most notable combat option for women is the Caracal Battalion, which is a light infantry force in which 70 percent of the soldiers are women. The unit undergoes combat infantry training. It is named after the Caracal, a small cat whose genders appear the same.

However, even as the trend of including women in combat is undeniable, there are limitations, says the IDF general in charge of military personnel.

“I do not think that female soldiers need to serve as combat soldiers in the classic infantry brigades like Paratroopers or Golani,” said Maj.-Gen. Moti Almoz in an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 news.

“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,” said Almoz.

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Israel is one of only a small number of countries in the world with mandatory service for women. Currently, women comprise 33 percent of all IDF soldiers and 51 percent of its officers, according to military figures, serving in various roles in land, naval, and air forces. The IDF says that 92 percent of its units are open to women.

A previous IDF personnel branch chief, Orna Barbivai, was named the IDF’s first female major general when she assumed the post in 2011.

In Israel, the integration of women into combat units has created religious controversy. Some rabbis have been vocal and blunt in their objections, including one who lashed out at the concept by stating that putting a man and woman together in a tank would produce a baby nine months later.

In November, the IDF announced that six female naval combat recruits had enlisted in the Navy for the first time to serve on the new Sa’ar 6 corvette missile ships. The new corvettes, which are currently being built in Germany, will have a completely separate section for female soldiers, complete with beds, showers, and toilets.

Twenty-five percent of Israeli women opt out completely from military service on religious grounds, required instead to carry out some form of national service.