By LILACH SHOVAL
(Israel Hayom via JNS) – A record number of women are reaching senior ranks in the Israeli military and in the past few years, the number of women appointed to roles at the ranks of lieutenant colonel, colonel, and brigadier general has risen by 20 to 30%.
A senior IDF officer recently said that he thought that within the next three years, at least one more woman would be promoted to the rank of major general, and possibly two.
Is the Public Ready?
According to IDF figures, there are seven women serving at the rank of brigadier general —the third-highest rank in the Israeli military— which is the highest number of women serving at this rank in the history of the IDF.
The seven are chief of staff of the IDF’s Personnel Directorate Brig. Gen. Meirav Kirshner; adviser to the chief of staff on gender issues Brig. Gen. Sharon Nir; head of the chief of staff’s bureau Brig. Gen. Michal Teshuva; Chief Military Censor Brig. Gen. Ariella Ben Avraham; Deputy President of the Military Court of Appeals Brig. Gen. Orly Markman; deputy head of the Engineering and Construction Department in the Defense Ministry Brig. Gen. Orly Stern; and chief financial adviser to the chief of staff Brig. Gen. Ariella Lazrovitch, who is also a member of the General Staff Forum.
As recently as 2013, there were only three women serving at the rank of brigadier general, and that was the year the when Orna Barbivai made history by becoming the first woman to be promoted to major general. Barbivai was put in charge of the IDF’s Personnel Directorate.
In 2018, there were 36 women serving at the rank of colonel, excluding three women whom Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot recently decided to promote to colonel. To compare, in 2013 there were only 24 women serving at the rank of colonel. Women have also made advances at the rank of lieutenant colonel, with 326 women serving at that rank in 2018 compared to 291 in 2013.
Mixed Gender Battalions
The issue of women’s military service has been a matter of public debate, particularly when it comes to the question of opening combat roles to women. Some 90% of all positions in the IDF are now open to women and the remaining 10% are mostly combat positions in elite units.
In recent years, a handful of women have been appointed to command positions in combat battalions. The first was Oshrat Bachar, who commanded a combat intelligence battalion. No woman has yet been made commander of an IDF mixed-gender combat battalion, but at least one woman is a possible candidate for that position.
Women are making advances in the Israeli Air Force, as well. Only a few weeks ago IAF commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin decided to appoint the IAF’s first female squadron commander.
New Career Service Model
Senior IDF officials explain that the general trend in the country’s military is to promote women and bring them into as many professions as possible. However, they say, in some cases, women turn down offers of promotion, frequently because of family responsibilities.
In the past few years, Israel Hayom has interviewed many female officers who were facing the difficult choice between starting a family and continuing a demanding military career. Those women said that to advance in their careers, they — like their male counterparts — were asked to take on demanding field roles far from home precisely at the time of life when they would be most likely to start a family (in their late 20s to early 30s).
Some female officers think that the IDF’s new career service model, which limits the ages of commanders, makes it more difficult for women to take on major roles. The army leadership has responded with an attempt to create career paths for outstanding female officers that will allow them to spend years stationed at command headquarters, prior to and after their time in the field.