One of Israel’s most decorated war heroes, Brigadier General (Res.) Avigdor Kahalani, spoke out Wednesday morning on the controversy over the proposed integration of female service members into IDF armored divisions, and criticism of his opposition to the plan.
Last week, Kahalani, a former MK for the Labor and Third Way parties, rejected the idea of women serving in tank units.
"When I was injured and burned, and I couldn't leave my tank, I screamed one word: Mommy!! There's only one mother to a child, and a girl who fights in a war will end up completely different [than a mother should be]," Kahalani said.
As for mixed gender tank units, former IDF Chief Rabbi Yisrael Weiss was adamantly opposed. "If we put two people into a closed box, there's no way something won't happen," Rabbi Weiss said. "We can't put a couple, a man and a woman, a male soldier and a female soldier, into a closed box for a week and expect that nothing will happen. You'll get a little tank soldier in another nine months."
After enduring scathing criticism over the past week for those comments, Kahalani responded, telling Army Radio he has no doubts about the ability of women to do the same tasks as men. Explaining that training and drills are only part of the story, he reminded feminists that the horrors of the battlefield are the other part.
“I haven’t been married for 52 years?” he asked rhetorically. “I don’t have granddaughters? I’m the first to believe that women can do the same things as men, like be Prime Minister or [IDF] Chief of Staff. All that I said was that we don’t need to make women go through this experience [of the horrors of war].”
“Anyone who goes through this experience comes back from war completely different. Things big and small change – you’re altered body and soul, that’s what I said. They [his critics] tried to take half a sentence of mine. I don’t apologize, I stand by my words,” he continued.
“I don’t block women, I’m not a chauvinist, I opened all the doors for women. People don’t want to listen – if they would listen, they’d understand what I’ve been saying.”
Kahalani is currently CEO of the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel's Soldiers (Ha'aguda Lema'an Hachayal). He has decorations from the Yom Kippur War where his battalion held off a Syrian force of 500 tanks, the Medal of Distinguished Service for service during the Six-Day War, where he was badly wounded when his M-48 Patton tank caught fire and a medal from the president for his contribution to Israel.