Our local Public Television is currently airing a program called MAKERS. Last night’s episode was how women in the US were accepted into the American space program, first with NASA and subsequently with other space programs. It was interesting to me to see the progress these courageous women made, and to see them commanding space craft and international space stations was very rewarding.
There was a message in that program that women have been discouraged from studying in the fields of science, engineering, biology, physics and chemistry.
Now, for a part of my life I grew up in a single-parent home. My mother,ז”ל , worked at a variety of jobs including driving a taxi cab for a time. She taught me at a very early age, that there is very little women can’t do unless they are held back by antiquated ideologies. Of course nowadays, in the US, in Israel, and in many other countries, one can see women operating buses, tractor-trailers, and aircraft large and small.
In an article reported by Mitch Ginsburg a few days ago, (http://www.timesofisrael.com/army-to-integrate-armored-corps/) the IDF is about to train women to serve as tank commanders. While this is commendable it is really nothing new. Years ago when I was a tank commander serving with an IDF reserve unit, we had women instructors for a variety of tank-related issues. These women were excellent instructors, and along with their male counterparts they conducted refresher classes for many of the training classes I took a part in.
There is a unit, the Nesher Battalion, made up entirely of women who serve in combat roles. Again, years ago when my tank unit was deployed along the Egyptian border, after the return of the Sinai peninsula to the Egyptians, we often worked with certain intelligence units staffed by women. Their work then, as with the Nesher Battalion’s work now, allowed us to prevent smugglers and other infiltrators from entering Israel from its border with Egypt.
Another unit, the Caracal Battalion, founded in the year 2000, has women who volunteer to become combat soldiers, later to serve with men to secure the Egyptian border from smugglers, infiltrators, and terrorists. Almost 60% of this unit is made up of women.
Women in the IDF also serve in the Artillery Corps, Border Police units and the Iron Dome units that protected so many Israeli citizens during the last conflagration, Operation Protective Edge.
Perhaps because of my personal background, perhaps because of my years of service in the IDF, I have always strongly supported equal roles, equal responsibilities, and equal pay for women. I support the current trend that encourages women to enter fields of technology, science, engineering, physics, mathematics, medicine and research. By encouraging young women to enter these areas of education and study we create independent, powerful and confident citizens, be they in Israel, the US or anywhere in the world.
Israel, because of its unique circumstances and personnel needs for its defense, has long led the way among democratic nations in providing equal opportunities for women and men. Certainly there were and there continue to be issues, domestic violence being one of the major issues that need to be dealt with. I believe and I reiterate that by providing equal opportunities for women in all areas of society, education, defense, the workplace and the home we create powerful, independent and confident citizens who will be able to face any and all challenges that might await them.