Religious soldiers were separated from the rest of their unit and ordered to leave the IDF outpost on which they had been stationed so that a mixed male-female reserve battalion could serve there.
The decision was made after the mixed-sex battalion was ordered out of two other outposts because the religious soldiers there refused to serve alongside them. In at least one of them, there was only one shower. After the second incident, the female soldiers threatened a mini-mutiny.
The trouble began when a Home Front Command reserve battalion was called up earlier this week for a stint of routine security service in the Jordan Valley Regiment in Central Command.
“Everything went well until we reached the outpost,” a female soldier said, according to Maariv-NRG, which headlined its story, Women Reservists Given the Runaround Because of Religious Soldiers. “The commanders told us that the facilities in the outpost are not good and that we should move to another outpost. We naïvely believed him and moved.”
'Are We Nothings?'
At this point, the report says, ten female combat soldiers packed their bags and moved to another outpost. It was then that they found out the true reason for their relocation, one of them said. “One of the commanders in the second outpost explained to us that we are not wanted in this outpost as well, because there are yeshiva-boy soldiers serving there who refuse to have girls serve in the outpost."
IDF photos of female soldiers usually portray them in combat makeup. Israel news photo: IDF Spokesman's Unit.
When the women’s commanders told them they had to leave the second outpost as well, they “decided that they had had enough” and refused to leave. One of them told the newspaper: “After two days of guard duty and checkpoints we are told to leave, as if we are a bunch of nothings? We came to serve and not to be insulted. We decided to refuse orders as a matter of principle.”
'You are the IDF's problem'
The female soldiers told the commanders that they refuse to move to another outpost. They reportedly offered to be court-martialed and asked to see the regiment commander, who refused to meet them. The reserve battalion commander persuaded them to swallow their pride and move to yet another, more remote outpost, where soldiers from a different battalion were stationed.
“We reached the Metzokei Deragot outpost,” a female soldier said, “and we couldn’t believe it… it turned out that we couldn’t stay because there were religious soldiers there as well. They even entered the clubhouse where we were waiting so that they could tell us that we are a problem for the IDF."
Only after Maariv-NRG intervened, the women soldiers said, did the commanders decide to transfer the religious soldiers out of the third outpost, and let the female soldiers stay there.
Religious Soldiers Were Separated from Their Unit
In response to a query by Israel National News Friday, the IDF Spokesman's Unit confirmed that the religious soldiers were separated from their unit in order to accomodate the female soldiers. The female soldiers, too, had been separated from the rest of their mixed unit.
Special (photo) ops: female soldier in training. Israel news photo: IDF Spokesman's Unit.
A military source told Israel National News that the entire affair was symptomatic of the problematic nature of the interaction with the female combat units, and added that "everyone is tired of them and the army is looking for ways to get rid of this problem."
The IDF Spokesman’s Unit responded to the journalistic query Thursday by noting that the mixed male-female reserve battalion arrived for operational service in the Jordan Valley a mere 24 hours before the journalists were called in. "Upon their arrival it turned out that there was only one shower in the said outpost – a matter which makes it impossible to carry out the ‘proper integration’ specified by IDF orders [regarding women’s service and religious sensibilities],” the Spokesman explained.
“The sector’s Regimental Commander gave orders to immediately transfer the girls to a different outpost and the girls were indeed transferred to another outpost today,” the Spokesman said. “Until the time at which the girls were transferred, shower times were set so that neither side’s sensibilities would be hurt and to enable a proper routine. We must stress that this was a mistake that was made unintentionally.”
Women in the Army
Female soldiers are encouraged to serve in combat units as part of an IDF policy that allegedly seeks to promote equality between the sexes and to advance women’s status in society. While receiving much media attention, only about 2.5 percent of women who enlist for service volunteer for combat duty, and the mixed male-female infantry units are never sent to the front lines in warfare. Of the 121 IDF soldiers killed in the Second Lebanon War, 120 were male.
Religious soldiers are considered by some observers to be the most highly motivated component of the IDF’s fighting force. Their share of the IDF’s combat officer cadre, and of the army's casualties in recent wars, is disproportionately high.