Israel Defense Forces
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) (Hebrew: צְבָא הַהֲגָנָה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל, Tzva HaHagana LeYisra’el (help·info), lit. Defense Army for Israel), commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal (צה”ל), are Israel’s military forces, comprising the ground forces, air force and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel. The IDF is headed by its Chief of General Staff, subordinate to the Defense Minister of Israel; the current Chief of Staff, since 2007, is Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi. As one of only few countries, Israel has mandatory military service for both men and women.
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The Israel Defense Forces were officially formed out of the Haganah at the order of Defense Minister David Ben-Gurion on May 26, 1948, as a conscript army, and incorporated the three Jewish underground organizations—the Haganah (including Palmach), Irgun and Lehi. It served as Israel’s armed forces in all the country’s wars—the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the 1956 Sinai War, the 1967 Six-Day War, the War of Attrition, the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the 1982 Lebanon War and the 2006 Lebanon War. While originally the IDF fully operated on three fronts—against Lebanon and Syria in the north, Jordan and Iraq in the east, and Egypt in the south—after the 1979 Egyptian–Israeli Peace Treaty, its activities have mainly been concentrated in southern Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories, including the First and Second Intifada.
The Israel Defense Forces differs from most armed forces in the world in many ways, including the conscription of women, and the structure, with close relations between the ground forces, air force and navy. Since its founding, the IDF has strived to be a unique army fitting Israel’s specific requirements, and has also developed numerous local technologies, such as the Merkava main battle tank, Uzi submachine gun, and the Galil and Tavor assault rifles. It also has close military relations with the United States, including financial aid from the US, which also fostered development cooperation, such as on the F-15I jet, THEL laser defense system, the Arrow missile defense system, etc.  Women Israel has female conscription, but about a third of female conscripts (more than double the figure for men) are exempted, mainly for religious and nuptial reasons.
Following their active service, women, like men, are in theory required to serve up to one month annually in reserve duty. However, in practice only some women in combat roles get called for active reserve duty, and only for a few years following their active service, with many exit points (e.g., pregnancy).
Apart from the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, when manpower shortages saw many of them taking active part in battles on the ground, women were historically barred from battle in the IDF, serving in a variety of technical and administrative support roles. During this period the IDF utilized female instructors for training male soldiers in certain roles, particularly tank crews.
After a landmark 1994 High Court appeal by Alice Miller, a Jewish immigrant from South Africa, the Air Force was instructed to open its pilots course to women. Miller failed the entrance exams, but since her initiative, many additional combat roles were opened. As of 2005, women are allowed to serve in 83% of all positions in the military, including Shipboard Navy Service (except submarines), and Artillery. Combat roles are voluntary for women.
As of 2002, 33% of lower rank officers are women, 21% of Captains and Majors, and 3% of the most senior ranks.
450 women currently serve in combat units of Israel’s security forces, primarily in the Border Police. Yael Rom, the first female pilot in the Israeli Air Force earned her wings in 1951. The first female jet fighter pilot, Roni Zuckerman, received her wings in 2001. In November 2007 the first woman was appointed to the rank of deputy squadron commander.
Roles in the Army
Women serve in combat support and light combat roles in the Artillery Corps, infantry units and armored divisions. A few platoons, named Karakal, were formed, in which men and women serve together in light infantry on the borders with Egypt and Jordan. Karakal became a battalion in 2004.
The IDF abolished its “Women’s Corps” command in 2001, with a view that it had become an anachronism and a stumbling block towards integration of women in the army as regular soldiers with no special status. However, after pressures from feminist lobbies, The Chief of Staff was persuaded to keep an “adviser for women’s affairs”. Female soldiers now fall under the authority of individual units based on jobs and not on gender. The 2006 Lebanon War was the first time since 1948 that women were involved in field operations alongside men. Airborne helicopter engineer Sergeant-Major (res.) Keren Tendler became the first female combat soldier to be killed in action.
- Israel Defense Forces on Wikipedia
- The role of women in conflict resolution and peacebuilding
- International Law and War Rape