An Israeli Woman’s Place Is in a Tank, Too

The news that women will be allowed to serve as combat soldiers in Israel's armored corps has made some knights of the patriarchy apoplectic.

Women soldiers in the IDF.
Tomer Appelbaum

Every time the female bastards change the rules, one of the knights of the patriarchy panics. Maj. Gen. (res.) Yiftah Ron Tal was so panicked by the news that women would be allowed to serve as combat soldiers in the armored corps that he invented the bizarre conspiracy theory expounded in an interview with Army Radio: Putting women into combat roles is a plot by left-wing organizations that are seeking to weaken the military.

The verbal assault he suffered produced a lame apology to left-wing organizations. But the women? Ron Tal didn’t retract his views on that issue: The thought of women in tanks is a mistake, a problem, a scandal, a colossal systemic failure.

The wretchedness of his arguments once again shows how willing supporters of the patriarchy are to expose their shame. All that matters is that the old order – flowers on the rifle stock and girls on the turret, but not inside the tank – be preserved as it was.

In 16 armies worldwide, women already serve in tanks. Canada, France, Germany, Australia, Denmark, New Zealand and Sweden are among the countries that have gone off the rails and allowed women to take the entry exams for the armored corps course, including tests for the necessary physical requirements. Any woman who so desired and was found suitable has been able to realize her dream to strike the enemy from inside an effective, crowded, stinking and dangerous war machine.

This year, Britain and the United States joined the list of countries which, after examining the issue thoroughly, concluded that women are capable, that nobody will be harmed, and that gender equality means equality of opportunity in every type of work, including in tanks. Other countries have already sent female tank soldiers to battle in Afghanistan and Iraq, and no sudden weakness has been observed in their armies.

As far back as 1943, Mariya Oktyabrskaya, a tank driver in the Red Army, was suitable enough and equal enough to die in her tank during a battle and be crowned a hero of the Soviet Union after her death. This didn’t hinder the victory over the Nazis, just as having a woman command one of Norway’s submarines – Solveig Krey was appointed to that job in 1995 – didn’t bring disaster down upon her crew, despite the imbecilic belief that women bring bad luck to submarines.

What Ron Tal terms “a colossal systemic failure” is happening only in his head. Or to be more precise, in all the petrified heads, which bear a remarkable resemblance, of leaders of ultra-conservative churches in the United States, extreme rightists like Richard Kemp in Britain (who blamed radical feminists for the decision to put women in tanks) and the officer and gentleman Gregory Newbold, a former lieutenant general and director of operations for the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Yes, he too fears greatly for the military’s strength and the alchemy of morale in units that have suddenly been renewed with women.

The arguments are similar; the speakers are replicas and clones. We’ve already also heard the Israel Defense Forces’ former chief rabbi, Brig. Gen. Yisrael Weiss, warning that the proximity between women and men in the tank would merely create little tank soldiers-to-be.

And every time women threaten a male-only club, we will apparently run into the exact same reaction. The worst version of it came from the late Ezer Weizman, who commanded the air force before become president. “Listen, maideleh, have you ever seen a man knitting socks?” he asked Alice Miller, who wanted to be an air force pilot, in 1993. “And have you ever seen a woman surgeon or orchestra conductor?”

At the time he made that statement, boys were already learning knitting in anthroposophic schools, and there were already female surgeons and orchestra conductors in Israel. Not many, since each of them had to fight for her right to enter the club.

Today, there are female pilots in the IDF. There are female fighter pilots in the United States. Not many, since not everyone is capable. But there, they’ve already learned that everyone is entitled to try. Except for those who are still incapable of believing that all of us – women and men both – deserve equality of opportunity in the public sphere.

“He told me, ‘Come sweetheart’ / two words, no more / and I, like a baby / ran to the tank soldier,” women once sang in the armored corps band. And they rhapsodized, “He’s simply a tank soldier.” As long as she’s a sweetheart and a baby, the patriarchy will be happy. It simply doesn’t know how to sing a new song.