In celebration of International Women’s Day, and in honor of the contribution women make to the IDF, the following is a small portion of the interesting and noteworthy roles women hold throughout their service. Women have served in the IDF since its inception, and in Israeli defense organizations before the creation of the State of Israel (exceptional women such as Hannah Senesh and Sarah Aaronsohn, for example). Each year, 1,500 female combat soldiers are drafted into the IDF, a number which has remained consistent in recent years. Female soldiers also play crucial roles in command and control positions, commanding positions, and many others.
Examples of Units and Positions of Women in the IDF
- Battalion Signal Officer - The Battalion Signal Officer is responsible for operating and maintenance of communications in a battalion, a central and important role within the force. During emergency situations, the Battalion Signal Officer stands side by side with the Battalion Commander, operating and managing communications during combat.
- 76th Battalion of the Combat Engineering Brigade – As part of the Combat Engineering Brigade, the 76th battalion is a unique battalion which combines male and female soldiers, whose job is to neutralize Atomic Biological Chemical (ABC) warfare threats in the battlefield during combat in real time. These soldiers go into the heart of enemy territory along with other combat troops during wartime, and help protect them from unconventional weapons.
- 334th Battalion of the Artillery Corps – The 334th battalion specializes in MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System) launchers and has a primary role in all artillery operations. All positions in the Artillery Corps are open to women, including both staff and combat roles. Women who serve in combat units complete advanced training, at the end of which they are integrated into continuous security operations across Israel. They commit themselves to an additional 12 months of mandatory military service, as well as to reserve duty.
- Electronic Warfare Combat Soldier - Electronic Warfare combat soldiers serve in unique and highly classified positions. The women in Electronic Warfare undergo team building military tests, advanced combat training, and a half year course in which they acquire the skills of their profession.
- Caracal Battalion – The Caracal Battalion is a highly operational combat force which combines both male and female soldiers, tasked with guarding the borders of Israel with Egypt and Jordan. The unit undergoes training like any combat infantry and all of its soldiers sign up for three years of service, in accordance with a worldview which demands total gender equality.
- Oketz Unit - This canine special forces unit includes both male and female soldiers, who are partnered with dogs whom they personally train and with whom they embark on operational activities. The dogs – along with their owners – sniff out explosives, track down terrorists, and neutralize security threats.
- Aerial Defense System Operator – All units in the Aerial Defense System are open to women, who may serve in combat or command and control roles and who defend the skies of Israel by intercepting aircraft, missiles, and rockets. This includes manning the new Iron Dome system, which is due to become operational in the coming months.
- In-Flight Teleprocessor - Soldiers operate unique telecommunications devices on planes during flights in order to enable communication in remote areas. Female soldiers serving in this position operate during routine activities and during wartime. The position demands great skill and professionalism, and the soldiers serving in it must operate in extremely stressful conditions. They undergo courses in both teleprocessing and paratrooper capacities.
- IAF Pilots – Since the revolutionary lawsuit of Alice Miller, who sought to be the first IAF pilot, the pilot’s course became open to women and welcomed them into its ranks. The last course alone saw two fighter pilots and one navigator successfully graduate.
Officer and Commanding Roles
Approximately half of all soldiers in officer courses are women. During the last three years:
- An average of 55% of all staff officers in the Officers Training Course were women.
- An average of 53% of those OTC graduates went on to become officers in combat support positions.
- An average of 3% of all combat officers were women. In the last decade there has been an increase in the percentage of women combat officers.
In the last several years alone, women in the IDF : Achieved high-ranking positions, integrated themselves successfully into combat units, protected the country’s borders, revolutionized military law, directly impacted national security. You can read more about how the IDF leads the way in gender integration here.