Tuvia Book
Author, educator, Tour-Guide, artist

Fearless flying females of the IAF

Five officers of a recent graduating IAF pilot training course were women. A woman wearing her IAF wings is not a strange sight around IAF bases anymore.

5 women-pilots

Photo courtesy: IAF

Almost 60 years have passed since a woman first completed the IAF’s pilot training course. Lieutenant Yael Rom marched amongst the 18 officers completing Pilot Training Course number 5, and was the first woman to pin on the IAF pilot wings to her uniform and served in combat in the 1956 war.

After a hiatus of forty years women were given permission to enter the air combat training school after a ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court in 1997 after an appeal by Alice Miller, a South African immigrant with a civilian pilots license, to enter the prestigious course. Miller’s appeal was based on Israel’s Declaration of Independence, which states:

The State of Israel… will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.

In practicing the above, the IDF insures that Jewish homeland has become an international beacon of light for toleration, equality and inclusion. Even though Miller did not succeed in passing the rigorous requirements of the course she opened the way for other women.

The first woman to qualify as a fighter pilot after the Supreme Court ruling, Lt. R. in 2001, had to survive a two-year course that is regarded as the toughest of its kind in the world. It cost almost three million dollars to train an IAF pilot and there is above a ninety percent drop-out rate. She not only survived the course but excelled: she finished sixth in her class of 70 and during dogfight training she is said to have “downed” even her squadron commander!

Interestingly, she was raised in Kibbutz Lochamei Hagetaot (The Ghetto fighters Kibbutz) and her grandparents were both leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto revolt. Clearly the genes are strong in her family.

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IAF Training Course Graduation. Photo courtesy: IAF

Recently, Lt. T became the first religious female combat navigator. Remarkably, she had already completed her two years of national service before entering the pilot training course. During the course she was forced to eject from her plane and broke her back. After a year of rehabilitation she returned to the next course and graduated. At her graduation Prime Minister Netanyahu said,

T is an example of the equality between the sexes in Israel and proof that in the IDF there is place for all parts of Israeli society. It is important that more and more sectors become integrated into the IDF so that the burden may be shared more equitably and among more people.

The example of these fine young women who strive to go above and beyond what is required of them to serve our county and people is in stark contrast to the recent mass Ultra-Orthodox demonstration against any kind of national service for our country. Jews are instructed in the Talmud not to “rely on miracles” but rather to be active in working to make them happen. The IAF, which started, “on a wing and a prayer,” has developed to be one of the worlds leading air forces largely because of the special and dedicated men and women who are prepared to give the best years of their lives to safeguard the miracle of the Jewish State for future generations.

About the Author
Dr. Tuvia Book was born in London and raised in both the UK and South Africa. After making Aliya at the age of 17 and studying in Yeshiva he volunteered for the IDF, where he served in an elite combat unit. Upon his discharge he completed his BA at Bar-Ilan University, as well as certification in graphic design. He then served as the Information Officer at the Israeli Consulate of Philadelphia, while earning a graduate degree in Jewish Studies. Upon his return to Israel, Dr. Book graduated from a course of study with the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, and is a licensed tour guide. Tuvia has been working in the field of Jewish Education, both formal and informal, for many years. He has guided and taught Jewish students and educators from around the English-speaking world for some of Israel’s premier educational institutions and programs. Tuvia has been guiding groups for Birthright Israel since its inception and, in addition, has lectured throughout North America, Australia, Europe and South Africa. Tuvia served as a Shaliach (emissary) for the Jewish Agency for Israel as the Director of Israel and Zionist Education at the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York (Jewish Education Project). He was a lecturer/educational guide at the Alexander Muss Institute for Israel Education (AMIIE) in Israel for a decade. Tuvia has lectured at both Bar Ilan University and Hebrew University. He is the author (and illustrator) of the internationally acclaimed Zionism curriculum; “For the Sake of Zion; A Curriculum of Israel Education” (fifth edition, 2017, Koren) and is at present working on his next book, a history of the Jewish people. Tuvia has a doctorate in Israel education. His dissertation title is: “Through the Soldiers’ Eyes: Exploring the Influence of a Birthright Mifgash on the Israeli Soldier Participants.”
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