Navy sailors throw salt at female soldier to ‘ward off evil eye’
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Navy sailors throw salt at female soldier to ‘ward off evil eye’

Servicewoman files complaint over incidents in which she was ridiculed by male comrades; army says the men were joking

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

An Israeli Navy Dvora-class patrol boat during an exercise on March 2, 2015. (Matan Portnoy/Israel Defense Forces/Flickr)
An Israeli Navy Dvora-class patrol boat during an exercise on March 2, 2015. (Matan Portnoy/Israel Defense Forces/Flickr)

A female soldier lodged a formal complaint with the military after a group of navy soldiers insulted and threw salt at her when she entered the engine room of a ship in breach of an old mariner superstition against women, Israel Radio reported Wednesday.

According to the radio report, the female soldier, who was training to become an electrician, experienced at least two incidents in which she was ridiculed and discriminated against by male sailors onboard a Dvora-class patrol boat.

In one case, the soldier said, she “went down to fix the motor and the soldiers yelled, ‘What’s a girl doing down here? We have to throw salt on her to ward off the evil eye.'”

The soldiers then came back “and started throwing salt at me and laughing,” she said. “I’d never felt more embarrassed.”

In a separate case, she was simply barred from entering the engine room, the soldier said.

“After a number of minutes of sitting outside on a bench embarrassed, they decided to let me in. When I entered, they all started yelling that I didn’t know anything about the motor, that I’ll ruin it because I’m a woman,” she said.

The specific dates and locations of the events were not specified.

In a statement to The Times of Israel, the IDF said the incidents were investigated and found that the soldiers “did not mean to hurt her feelings, but rather were making jokes.”

The military downplayed the incident, saying the female soldier “noted the event in passing.”

The army also said the female soldier “couldn’t identify the soldiers who were involved” and that she “asked that the event not be investigated deeply.”

Though the Israeli Navy once abided by the superstition of keeping women out of ships’ engine rooms — lest they make the sea jealous — the practice was banned as the service become more integrated.

In its statement, the IDF reiterated that the “Navy does not bar women from entering the engine room or any other part of a ship.”

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