IDF Rules That Tanks Are Still No Place for a Woman

Women can work in 92 percent of all military positions, but tanks are considered beyond their physiological limit.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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A female soldier.
A female soldier.Credit: David Bachar
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

The Israel Defense Forces has decided that women soldiers cannot operate tanks, following physiological tests it conducted.

The army undertook extensive staff work in an effort to determine what other military positions can be opened up to women. Women can now perform 92 percent of all army roles. Over the past year, they have been admitted to training courses for the elite Moran artillery corps, as well as the unit that operates small drones that support tactical forces in the field. The Ground Forces Command also sought to ascertain whether women could operate tanks or D-9 bulldozers, among other tasks.

The results of the examination, first published Sunday on the Ynet website, led military officials to conclude that women will not be allowed to operate tanks, because the physiological requirements of such positions as tank drivers and loaders exceed most women’s capabilities.

In an article in the most recent edition of the IDF magazine Ma’arachot, former Medical Corps officer Prof. Yoram Epstein – a former commander of the military physiology unit – and Lt. Col. Prof. Yuval Heled – commander of the Institute for Combat Medicine Research – said they believe women can be integrated into the fighting forces, but only in keeping with their physical limitations.

“The attempt to train female soldiers for combat on the front line beyond their physiological limitations, simply in the name of equality, is liable to end with a large number of injured soldiers just to find the one soldier who can withstand the load required,” they wrote. “However, in areas that don’t require especially high physical capabilities, that do not require carrying heavy loads for longer periods or the lifting of heavy loads (shells or ammunition casings) and that do not require offensive contact with the enemy, female fighters can be successfully integrated.”

A former Armored Corps battalion commander told Haaretz the army could put women in these jobs if it wanted to, and he saw no problem with integrating women as tank gunners or drivers. In the same way female pilots perform combat missions with men, the Armored Corps could operate tanks with mixed teams, he said.

The army, however, explained that men and women could not serve in the same tank because the teams must work together for several days at a stretch, and there would be no way to provide appropriate conditions and privacy for the female soldiers. The same explanation has been given by Israel Navy officers for why women cannot serve on submarines, even though they do so in Australia, Sweden and Germany.

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