Women’s Rights

“The army is the supreme symbol of duty and as long as women are not equal to men in performing this duty, they have not yet obtained true equality. If the daughters of Israel are absent from the army, then the character of the Yishuv will be distorted.”
~David Ben-Gurion, first Israeli Prime Minister
Women have served as IDF soldiers since the very beginning. On 26 May, 1948, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion established the IDF as Israel’s armed forces. Less than three months later, the Knesset instituted mandatory conscription for all women without children.
Not everyone was happy about this development, however. Parts of the more religious community felt that allowing their daughters to enlist would lead to immodesty. They wanted nothing to do with Ben-Gurion’s vision.
In 2012, the State Archives made a unique document available to the public for the first time. On 15 February, 1952, Ben-Gurion sent a letter to Israel’s Karaite community. Over the course of three pages and a stream of Biblical quotations, he attempts to show that women serving in the army and defending the nation is sanctioned by tradition:
“All of these verses [from the Bible] prove that the Hebrew woman was not shut away in her house, but rather played an important part in the life of the nation, serving as a judge for her people and leading her nation out to war.”
The State must teach women how to fight, Ben-Gurion says, as a matter of pure necessity:
“Since you rightly believe that the security of the State must be pursued night and day, I want you to know that that security will not exist if our nation’s women do not know how to fight. We are few – and our enemies are many. If, heaven forbid, a war falls upon us, the men will go to fight the enemy, and if, heaven forbid, the women who are protecting their children at home do not know how to use a weapon – what will be their end if the enemy falls upon them?”
There’s nothing ideal about war, Ben-Gurion says. But as long as the threat of war exists, women must play an equal role in keeping Israel safe:
“I hope that one day, as our prophets said, “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4), and we will sit in quiet and in peace, and we will no longer need our sons and daughters to go to the army… But until that prophecy is realised, and the security of our nation and the safety of every man and woman in Israel is in danger, all of our sons and our daughters must know how to defend themselves, their nation and their land.”
Today, 57 percent of all officers in the IDF are women. Ben-Gurion’s vision came true.
(from the official blog of the IDF)

Esther Petrack, former ‘America’s Next Top Model’ contestant, now IDF soldier

 March 25, 2012

Esther Petrack was on the way to being the next big thing, after competing in the reality show “America’s Next Top Model” and making seventh place,
when she decided a change of pace was in order. For her, the next big thing was entirely different; she wanted to become an IDF combat soldier. Esther
was born in Jerusalem to a religious family and at sixteen, moved with her family to the United States. She made history when she became the
first religious Jewish girl to compete in the “America’s Next Top Model“. She was on the fast lane to becoming a supermodel when things changed last year,
during a visit to Israel for the first time in four years. Following her trip Esther decided to make Aliyah and join the army.Upon enlisting, Esther was asked
where she would like to serve. Though offered the chance to serve in administrative positions and office environments, she insisted upon the combat
position of tank instructor. “I wanted to do something I could never do in my post-army life. Tank instructor is unlike any civilian job—it’s physical,
but also intellectually and mentally challenging.” When asked how a former model deals with the intensity of life in the field, Esther laughed and said:
“Well, one thing is for sure —my nails will never go back to what they used to be.”

Esther and the tank she will be teaching in


Esther during her days as a model in New York

Esther during her days as a model in New York


IDF Commander Finishes Beret March While Seven Months Pregnant


She was serving as a combat soldier, quickly became a commander, commanded soldiers in basic training while pregnant,
and finished a beret march with them — This is the story of Captain Yarden Shukrun, the first female commander of a
Home Front Command combat unit. For her, it’s just the beginning.

Captain Yarden Shukrun joined the army in 2004, and served as a combat soldier in the rescue unit of the Home Front Command. She later finished an officers course and became the first female combat commander in the Home Front Command. During her company commander course, she got married and six months later became pregnant. She decided to continue to as a commander until the eighth month of her pregnancy, wearing full uniform.

In the IDF, pregnant soldiers can choose to quit their military service, and career service officers are exempted from wearing a military uniform during any stage of their pregnancy. Also, they are entitled to special rights, as in any other workplace in Israel.

To Yarden, there was nothing unusual about continuing her job while pregnant, even when it required physical training in the field, working for many hours into the night and sleeping on a military base. ”It was the same as always, once you’re used to army life, the pregnancy shouldn’t matter,”’ she said. “ I didn’t think it mattered, and that’s what the doctors told me as well.”

Yarden said that the real challenges began when she joined the army, long before she became pregnant. “As a woman, I was always among men — as a combat soldier, as a squad commander, as a platoon commander, as the deputy company commander and now as a company commander — but I see it like there’s no difference.”

Yarden believes that one should not give excuses and should work as hard as possible for results. What matters, she says, is how much you give and the results of your actions.
“When I joined the army, I planned to become a combat soldier. It came from my heart. I had fun serving with guys — they always helped, supported and loved me along the way.”

Today, Yarden is completing her academic studies as part of her military service. In the meantime, she gave birth to another child, but she can’t wait to return to her military career. ”I’ll go back to any job that I would be needed for. I love my company, I love my battalion, and the Home Front command is an inseparable part of my life.”

They’re paratrooper instructors, Air Force operators, squad instructors and logistic specialists.
That’s right – this year, six of 20 nominees for the Miss Israel pageant are IDF soldiers.


Sgt. Gaya Shukun, one of the nominees, sees her participation in the competition as a mission. “I have a feeling that a lot of the models join the competition because they want to represent their country. Now that I’m in the army, I have a better insight into the real Israel. I see how badly we’re portrayed in the international arena, and as an IDF soldier, I feel a responsibility to better explain what really happens here.”

Sgt. Adi Levy says that her fellow soldiers are all behind her. “When I got into the competition, my commanders were really supportive. Their encouragement is something I really appreciated.”


Miss Israel 2013




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