A Call for Full Equality for IDF Servicewomen

The service of women in the IDF is an isolated case in the global campaign for human dignity, in the campaign for the status and dignity of women in human society, and in the campaign for the right of every individual to be respected. Opinion

A Call for Full Equality for IDF Servicewomen

Photo: IDF

I would like to dedicate this column to the late Keren Tendler, a warfighter who was killed in action during the Second Lebanon War ten years ago. Keren was the first female flight mechanic of the IAF's CH-53 helicopter squadron and was excellent at her job. She had completed four full and meaningful years in regular service and having fulfilled her civic duty, she took up law studies. At the same time as her academic studies, the late Keren Tendler continued to serve on reserve duty and was among those reporting to dozens of reserve duty days each year and setting an example and model to all of us.

The late Keren Tendler took an active part in the operations of her squadron during the Second Lebanon War, including clandestine operations behind enemy lines, while demonstrating infinite determination and devotion. On August 12, 2006, she was killed while on operational duty. She was 27 when she died, leaving behind her parents, a brother and a tremendous potential that was never fulfilled.

The service of women in the IDF is an isolated case in the global campaign for human dignity, in the campaign for the status and dignity of women in human society, in the campaign for the right of all of us to live in a country where every individual is respected.

The Israel Defense Forces, their commanders and troopers, constitute a substantial tier within Israeli society as a whole. Our IDF is a reflection of Israeli society while at the same time taking an active and essential part in the shaping of the Israeli narrative.

Any attempt to define people through their gender, ethnic origin or social affiliation will prove futile owing to the very fact that it tramples other human beings and harms human society as a whole. Any attempt to erect walls in front of people or place people behind walls in a stereotyped and irrelevant manner is sinful and misleading: sinful at the personal level, vis-à-vis the person being excluded, and misleading at the national and human level.

The illustrious story of the women who served and are serving in the IDF has been a source of immense pride to our country and its leaders. The contribution made by women to the IDF has been substantial and has reverberated the world over. The service of women in the IDF can be an illustrious story of full and sincere equality. The service of women in the IDF can and should be an example and model of fraternity and love of humanity at their very best.

The time has come to adopt a clear and distinct rhetoric: anyone advocating enhanced equality is actually saying that islands of inequality may exist; anyone declaring that the service of women should be expanded is actually assuming that women may not be allowed into certain places. The time has come to uproot the tone of leniency from this discussion. This is the time for the champions of human dignity to implement their theoretical teachings through deeds.

Next year we will commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Yudke Segev Commission – the commission that shaped the service of women in the IDF.

The Commission produced a formative, reasoned document that is still on the table, waiting patiently to be implemented. This arduously detailed and wisely composed report contains reasoned recommendations formulated with forethought and intelligence. It waits pleasantly for the bold ones who dare. It is possible and necessary to set the service term to an equal length. What is the logical reason for a reality where servicemen and servicewomen performing the same duties join the military for different periods of time? Imagine that the term of studies in academia would have been differentiated according to gender rather than according to subject, or a business organization where the number of working hours would have been determined by the employee's gender. To the same extent, the anomaly that exists with regard to the length of the military service term must not be accepted with indifference.

Identical selection for men and women can and should be implemented. Just one bold decision is necessary in order to rule that all candidates for national military service should go through the same selection process. One service term for all, standard selection and uniformity in all of the practices being implemented will lead to savings and convey an unequivocal message regarding the seriousness of the state's intent.

Women may and should be allowed to serve in all positions and specialties on the basis of clearly-defined criteria. What justification can be found for a reality where men are assigned to many combat specialties based on their health profile alone, while women are denied that privilege, even though they possess the necessary combat health profile?

More can and should be done in order to develop a respecting environment, an environment where no utterings such as the ones we have heard recently may be allowed to sprout; an environment with zero tolerance toward charges of rape; an environment where bravery on the battlefield and the gallantry of respect to mankind are one and the same and the true hero is the person who conquers his desires, as our sages of blessed memory put it.

Women have always served in the IDF and made a substantial contribution to the security and strength of the State of Israel. Women have always worked their way and are still working their way with determination, excellence and a sense of mission. The proper way to glorify, lionize and appreciate this welcome enterprise of the women in the IDF is by renouncing any kind of exclusion and initiating bold moves that would get the job done.

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Brig. Gen. (res.) Yehudit Grisaro was the Women's Affairs Advisor to the IDF Chief of Staff and Head of the IDF Senior Staff Division

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