Breaking record, 1,000 women join IDF combat units this summer
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Breaking record, 1,000 women join IDF combat units this summer

Military figures on unprecedented female enlistment to field units come a day after air force announces appointment of the first woman commander of a flight squadron

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

Soldiers from the mixed-gender Lions of the Jordan Valley Battalion take part in an exercise in the Tzeelim army base on February 5, 2018. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)
Soldiers from the mixed-gender Lions of the Jordan Valley Battalion take part in an exercise in the Tzeelim army base on February 5, 2018. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)

Some 1,000 women were inducted into the Israel Defense Forces to serve in combat units this summer, the most to do so in the country’s history.

This new record comes as the military is having female soldiers take on more and more combat roles.

According to military figures, in total 1,050 women joined combat units over the past year, approximately 1,000 of them during the summer, when the army has its draft days for these combat units.

This was 150 more female recruits than in 2017, the army said.

The number of new recruits was also nearly double the total number of female combat soldiers who served in the IDF in 2012 — 547.

President Reuven Rivlin visits the IDF’s Tel Hashomer army base, where he spoke to new female recruits on August 2, 2016. (Mark Neyman/GPO)

This summer’s record-breaking figure drew commendation by feminist groups and politicians.

“The numbers show the IDF’s operational need for female soldiers. I praise the chief of staff and the army for continuing this trend, especially when other voices have been heard recently,” said Galia Wolloch, the head of the Na’amat women’s group.

Deputy Minister Michael Oren also lauded the recruitment record.

“In the past month, another 1,000 female soldiers drafted into field units — an all-time record. Gender equality is good for everyone. A happy recruitment to you all,” Oren tweeted.

The announcement about the record-high female recruitment came a day after the air force said it was appointing its first female commander of a flight squadron: the Nachshon Squadron, which operates surveillance aircraft.

An undated photo of Maj. G., who on August 7, 2018, was named the first ever female pilot to command an Israel Air Force flight squadron. (Israel Defense Forces)

The 34-year-old transport plane pilot, whose name cannot be published for security reasons, will replace the current commander of the squadron in the coming months.

“I’m happy about the appointment,” she said, in a statement from the military. “It is a great privilege along with a great responsibility. The true work is still ahead. I am proud to serve in the Air Force.”

In recent years, the number of female combat soldiers has skyrocketed, nearly quintupling in the span of five years.

Critics of gender integration often decry it as a dangerous social experiment with potential ramifications for national security, while defenders generally trumpet it as a long-needed measure, one that has already been implemented in many Western countries.

Soldiers of the Caracal Battalion prepare for a hike as part of their training on September 3, 2014. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Detractors note that some requirements for the female combat soldiers have been lowered — which they say is a sign that effectiveness is being sacrificed — and that servicewomen tend to suffer stress injuries at a higher rate than their male counterparts.

The army insists that it is allowing more women to serve in combat positions out of practical considerations, not due to a social agenda, saying it requires all the woman- and manpower available to it.

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