‘I’m very proud to serve,’ says Israel’s first ultra-Orthodox female Border Police fighter

“I’m very proud to serve in the Border Police, and I recommend that other ultra-Orthodox women enlist,” Sgt. Maj. Avishag Shiran Malka said.

By World Israel News Staff

Sgt. Maj. Avishag Shiran Malka is one of a kind – the only haredi female Border Police fighter in Israel.

The 38-year-old mother of two young sons who study in the ultra-Orthodox school system, which generally discourages its pupils from doing military service, admitted in a Channel 14 interview that her lifestyle and career are at times difficult to synthesize.

“Sometimes the Sabbaths and holidays clash terribly,” she told Tal Meir on the “Three” show. “Like when you’re preparing for Passover [the night before] and suddenly some operation or other begins and you have to focus on the work. It’s to navigate between the drops, as it were.”

A 17-year veteran of the force, Malka grew up secular but in her mid-20s started attending Torah classes, leading her to gradually adopt a more religious way of life. She thought of quitting, she said, after she got married, as her husband had difficulty reconciling certain Orthodox restrictions, such as having a man and a woman alone together, with the realities of her job.

Since security work does not pause on the Jewish holidays, she had to do her share of duty then as well, which also did not sit well with him, especially when she was called in on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year. This has happened “several times,” she said in the interview, but she answered the call and did what needed to be done “while fasting,” she noted, in order to keep one of the day’s major prohibitions even if she could not spend the day in synagogue.

Malka has received critical support from her rabbi, to whom she defers for all questions of Jewish law, such as “how to keep the Sabbath while violating it,” which she said was a particularly difficult part of the job. But when she asked for direction, she said, “each time he said I should stay a combat soldier.”

The long skirt and head-covering that Orthodox women wear have not gotten in her way during typical Border Police missions, where in general she has acted as a driver but has also joined her colleagues in action, she told Channel 14.

“If we have to do a search and breach walls… it makes it more difficult in some ways,” she acknowledged, “but I never gave up. If I had to jump over a wall in a skirt, then I jumped…. I do everything I can and everything necessary, and if there are limitations where I can’t, then I say so. But for the most part, I’m like any fighter.”

Read  Ultra-Orthodox Israelis form local defense groups

When asked by the interviewer if she would tell any daughter she might have to follow in her footsteps, Malka conceded that as a general rule, Jewish law would oppose the move, but that “everyone should do what is good for him or her – of course after asking a rabbi.”

“I’m very proud to serve in the Border Police, and I recommend that other ultra-Orthodox women enlist,” she told Ynet in a separate interview. “It’s possible to combine an ultra-Orthodox lifestyle with operations and challenging work.”

Today, the report said, Malka serves in a mostly female unit that regularly patrols Afula to provide a sense of security to the residents and a rapid response in case of any terrorist attack.