Religious Israeli Soldiers Turn Backs on Female Parachute Instructor

The army says the paratroopers, who refused to obey the instructor's orders, were told they're not allowed to discriminate between men and women

FILE PHOTO: Israeli paratroopers in 2016.
Ilan Assayag

Several dozen religiously observant soldiers training to be paratroopers turned their backs on a female instructor and refused to obey her orders, according to a tweet by the instructor’s mother, media personality, Shira Margalit.  

“I could barely sleep last night, after a hard day in which I had to hear that my soldier daughter Noa, a parachute instructor, tells me that while demonstrating an exercise before 70 soldiers, 50 of them turned their backs on her because she is a woman!” Margalit tweeted.

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“This was not a group of haredim (ultra-Orthodox men). This is just the ugly reality,” the tweet added.

The army verified the story and said in response that a talk was held with the soldiers involved in which it was made clear that they could not discriminate between male and female instructors.

The instructor, whose father is Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva, commander of the operations directorate, had been conducting an exercise with soldiers drafted from yeshivas, the army spokesman confirmed. The army said it found that 30 soldiers turned their heads away as she spoke.

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Their commander told them that under army orders, instructors would not be chosen by gender and any trainee who disrespects an instructor will be thrown out. The spokesman added that the IDF stresses uniformity in its ranks in all activities regardless of religion, race or gender.

The Israel Women’s Network said that on the same day as this report came out, the Israel Air Force got its first female squadron commander, Major G., yet there is a “parallel reality” in which soldiers can humiliate a peer because she is a woman. The organization planned to take up the issue with the army's personnel directorate and demand stiffer punishments for such behavior.