IDF Begins Enlisting Women for Second Mixed-gender Combat Battalion

Battalion will be called Lions of the Jordan and be part of Central Command, which includes West Bank.

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Israeli soldiers of the Caracal battalion carry their comrade on a stretcher during a 20-kilometre march.
Israeli soldiers of the Caracal battalion carry their comrade on a stretcher during a 20-kilometre march.Credit: Reuters
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

The Israel Defense Forces has begun enlisting the first female combat soldiers for its second mixed battalion, which will be called, in Hebrew, Arayot Hayarden (Lions of the Jordan).

The new battalion will part of the security forces in Central Command, which includes the West Bank. As in the Caracal battalion, the first mixed battalion in the army, roughly half of the combat soldiers in Arayot Hayarden will be women.

Enlistment of the female combat soldiers for field assignments will begin on Thursday, except for women recruits for the pilots’ course and for the captains’ course, who are inducted on a date set in advance. Female combat troops of Arayot Hayarden (the unit was formerly called Bardelas, or Cheetah) will be taken to the Paratroopers’ Brigade’s training base for their training. Once several enlistment rounds are completed, there will be a hiatus in enlistment, after which women will be enlisted to the Engineering Corps’s NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) warfare battalion. The integration of women into that unit was stopped for what army officials say were logistical reasons.

The army’s first female commander of a combat battalion– has also begun her term of service. Lt. Col. Oshrat Bachar has begun serving as the commander of the Field Intelligence Battalion 727, known as Eitam, of the Combat Intelligence Collection Corps. The Eitam Battalion, which is stationed on the Israeli-Egyptian border, is responsible for field intelligence in the area. Bachar was previously an instructor in the army’s Command and Staff College.

According to army statistics, 92 percent of roles in the military are open to women, but some combat roles are still closed to them. In late 2012, 2.2 percent of women in the army served in combat roles. More than a decade ago, only 1 percent of female soldiers served in combat roles. Army officials disagree on the degree to which women should be integrated in roles that are not currently open to women, including in attack ranks (in the Infantry Corps, for example). Some officers are trying to get the ground work done for women’s integration into more roles in the army. One such example is the project led by Brig. Gen. Yigal Slovik, director of personnel in the army’s Ground Forces, to integrate women into the Artillery Corps.

Col. Talya Lankri, the army’s first woman battalion commander and considered a pioneer, says that Israeli society is not yet ripe for women’s integration into those combat roles. In an essay in the Israeli army journal Ma’archot, Lankri said only 14 percent of all the women who had gone through the sorting process on the way to combat roles completed their assignments as combat soldiers. “In my opinion, the army – which deals with complex tasks during routine times and even more complex ones during wartime – cannot afford to devote energy to topics not connected with meeting its main purpose,” she wrote in the article.

“Besides, Israeli society in general and the army in particular are not ripe for the integration of female combat troops in the attack ranks. Therefore, at the current stage, it would be proper not to integrate female combat troops into the attack ranks – certainly not in mixed units where they serve alongside men,” Lankri wrote.

Brig. Gen. Rachel Tevet-Vizel, the chief of staff’s adviser on women’s affairs, disagrees. In an article for Ma’archot that she wrote together with Lt. Col. Ariel Viner, Tevet-Vizel stated that the records and accounts of women officers who “paved the way” prove that “the time will never become ripe, on its own, for creating substantial equal gender opportunity in the Israeli army. Instead, that ripeness must be created by deliberate initiatives,” such as the integration of women into those roles.

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