Women graduates of an Israel defence forces, officers course. first on right Yael Dayan.
Women graduates of an Israel defence forces, officers course. first on right Yael Dayan,1957. Photo by GPO
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She’s Israel’s latest international star, yet nobody knows her name - or even her face, for that matter. A shapely young brunette - presumably an IDF soldier - with a machine gun slung over her shoulder, standing in a provocative pose in a striped bikini as she enjoys the sun on a crowded beach standing next to an equally attractive friend wearing an equally tiny bathing suit.

I first spotted the photo on Facebook posted by a high-tech worker named Barak Raz- with the caption “Only in Israel.” It was shared more than 500 times and garnered 1,500 ‘likes.’ The photo wasn’t exclusively a Facebook phenomenon - it seems to have originated here and been viewed by more than 650,000 people over the course of a single day. The crowds were sent by the social news site Reddit. Among other places, it was picked up the popular techie blog Gizmodo which titled its post Badass Chicks In Israel Don’t Go To the Beach Without Their Assault Rifles.

Naturally, those passing the photo around are predominantly male and draw admiring comments that range from analysis of her various assets and the positioning of her - ahem - weaponry - rah-rah remarks like Raz’s, praising Israel and the IDF specifically for producing such a specimen.

Others ask practical questions like “where does she keep the cartridge?” and “what if she wants to go swimming?” There are also detailed discussions about the precise make of her weapon and why she would be carrying it. And, of course, there are suspicions of photoshopping that accompanies any hugely popular online photo. Any excuse to keep ogling.

In reaction to the photo going flag-wavingly viral in pro-Israel circles, some objections, like lefty journalist Ami Kaufman, who wrote sarcastically “Wow... we're so unique! makes me ooze with pride! After pinkwashing, let the hot-chick-washing begin!” But … he too, posted the photo.

I’ve been quite fascinated by the fascination. Bikini pictures aren’t uncommon, and neither are pictures of gun. But put them together and you’ve got everyone’s attention. The combination of exposed female body and deadly weaponry must tap into some deep-seated male fantasy world. Even when fully clad, there seems to be a major Internet fetish for Israeli female soldiers. A quick Google search will prove me right. There may be other countries with women in the military - including the United States, but the consequences of Israel’s universal military service is that, when the entire female population goes to the army at age 18, each cohort is going to include a certain percentage of really hot women.

But still, a bikini and a gun?

To an Israeli, the photo makes perfectly practical sense. When soldiers take their weapon off military premises, they must guard it closely and keep it on their person, at all times. Having one’s weapon stolen is harshly punished with time in military prison a given. I’ve heard male soldiers on leave refer to their gun as their ‘wife,” so constant is the companionship. We’re used to seeing guns in all kinds of places - propped up next to the guy sitting next to us in a coffeeshop, or in a university classroom, and of course, slung over the shoulders of women soldiers, including women soldiers.

Of course, they usually tend to be wearing their uniforms at the time.

Some soldiers, male and female, have been accused of unnecessarily taking their weapon along in order to impress members of the opposite sex. In her case, if the weapon-with-bikini combination was merely a ploy for attention and not a necessity, it clearly worked. As the turned-on geeks at Gizmodo drooled in their post “even if she was just showing off, she looked incredibly badass doing so.”