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When I ask her why the army has assigned women to this particular job, Ben-Ezra says, "no offense, but they're just more intelligent. This company's job involves a lot sitting still, peering into binoculars or night-vision equipment and simply observing. The IDF has apparently decided that women are better at this kind of work.
The unit was formed in , also out of practical concerns. The soldiers spend long hours sitting or lying down in mobile observation posts that they construct themselves.
That means doing things like going to the bathroom in front of one's comrades. In , an Israeli pilot named Alice Miller took the air force to court for denying her the chance to become a military pilot. She won the case. And since then, more combat-related jobs have been opened up for women in the Israeli military.
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Now, women can try out for 90 percent of all military professions. Special forces and commando units are still off-limits. But women make up about 4 percent of Israel's combat forces, according to the military. There's a potential problem here, says Major Judith Webb.
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She was the first woman to command an all-male squadron in the British army. I'm not talking about the emotional or psychological or any of those effects, or what effects it may have on men. I'm talking about the physical limitations.
Abby Chernick does not agree. The year-old grew up in the northeastern US. She took citizenship in Israel after college and then signed up for an extra year of combat service, instead of taking on the kind of less-dangerous and physically demanding role sought out by many women in the Israeli military.
Chernick scoffs at the idea that women should be banned from combat roles in Israel or anywhere else.
Chernick says, "women have already proved themselves in [military] service in America. And the fact [is] that more women, many, many more women have died in service in America's army than in Israel's. The US and Israeli militaries are very different in a lot of ways.
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Israel is the only nation that has mandatory military service for both men and women. Though about half of all Jewish women in Israel do not serve in the military, with many opting to receive a deferment on religious grounds. The commander of the women's unit reads a map, while a training instructor center looks on. Photo: Matthew Bell.