My Sisters in the Tank

Yes, women should serve in tanks if they want, but Tair Kaminer's brave fight to avoid military service is a good example of feminism without war machines.

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Women soldiers in the IDF.
Women soldiers in the IDF.Credit: Michal Fattal
Iris Leal
Iris Leal

I’d be happier if women found a worthier arena for their just struggle for equality than insisting on their right to take part in the operation of war machines. For example, they could focus on the struggle to liberate us from the eternal need to live by the sword.

This was expressed with the clarity typical of religious-Zionist spiritual leaders by Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, a founder of the pre-army preparatory program at the settlement of Eli. “Women have a message for the world and men have a message for the world, and each must provide the message that God expects,” he said. Further along in his remarks, it was clear what this message was – and it didn’t include women in combat units.

But he’s wrong. There are brave fighters like Tair Kaminer, who sat in military prison for 150 days because of her refusal to serve in the army, which among its defense functions has served as a tool of repression for 50 years now.

An occupying army, no matter how cautious it is, is an army that causes injustice, and Kaminer chose to let this insight reverberate on each of the long days she sat in prison. She didn’t use the common ploy of getting out of the army on a pretext, usually having something to do with Jewish law.

This fighter realized her purpose as a woman just the way Rabbi Levinstein instructed his flock, with one addendum: She didn’t wait to hear what God expected of her and chose her purpose herself. Here you have a praiseworthy feminist act that doesn’t involve tanks and other weapons.

But the true heroism Kaminer showed couldn’t stir the slightest excitement from enthusiastic, decorated army heroes that the intention to include women in combat roles did. New heights of absurdity were reached, and the link between militarism and chauvinism has never been clearer.

For those who have forgotten that army-sanctifying Israeli society is still enthralled by old-fashioned concepts that make it difficult for women to integrate into the civilian sphere, this was an excellent comic opportunity. Avigdor Kahalani, a retired brigadier general, decorated for bravery bla bla, embarked on his last heroic task – defending the national womb that bears the courageous fighters of the future.

Tair Kaminer freed from IDF prison, July 18, 2016. Credit: Nimrod Glickman

After all, like men throughout history, Kahalani knows the true purpose of women better than they do.

Still, there’s nothing like the aroma of sexual harassment first thing in the morning. Col. (res.) Yonatan Bransky popped up on Erel Segal’s radio program and committed a kind of mass rape of his listeners. After he talked about muscle mass and bone density in women, he moved on to the main point: sanctity and the sacred prostitute.

“I heard a story,” he told Segal, and I could just hear the interviewer’s chair creak as he squirmed with discomfort. “An IDF investigator came to investigate the mixed battalions. He talked with male and female soldiers to collect information to draw conclusions in the conventional way.

“But then the investigator entered the PX, and while he was having a cold drink, the server in the PX said: ‘Listen bro, don’t waste your time . I’ll give you the answer. Do you see the shelf behind me? That’s the shelf with the birth control. Every time the [mixed] Caracal Battalion comes to train, the shelf empties out in half a day.’”

The moral, sisters, is: If you really have to drive a tank, aim it in the right direction.

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